Iowa Court of Appeals Affirms Grant of Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict in Favor of Defendant on Issue of Future Damages

Posted on: October 31st, 2018

On January 13, 2015, Plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident. Specifically, while Plaintiff was parked on the shoulder of the roadway, Defendant struck the side of her vehicle. As a result of the accident, Plaintiff alleged she suffered injuries to her cervical spine and low back (soft tissue). At trial, Plaintiff offered expert medical opinion stating that she would need medical treatment in the future. However, when asked if Plaintiff suffered a “permanent injury as a result of the collision,” Plaintiff’s expert stated, “I don’t know that I can comment on that.”

At the close of evidence, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff and awarded damages for future loss of function and future pain and suffering. Subsequent to the verdict, Defendants filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the grounds that there was not sufficient evidence to support the award of future damages. The trial court granted defendant’s motion. Plaintiff appealed.

On October 24, 2018, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s findings. In so doing, the Court cited the general rule that “expert testimony is often necessary to establish future physical pain and suffering.” DeBurkarte v. Louvar, 393 N.W.2d 131, 140 (Iowa 1986). The Court went on to acknowledge that expert testimony is not required to establish future damages when there is evidence that plaintiff was “seriously injured” and still suffering from her injuries at the time of trial. Arenson v. Butterworth, 54 N.W.2d 557, 563 (Iowa 1952). Ultimately, the Court concluded that plaintiff’s damages did not rise to the level of severity necessary to forego the general rule requiring expert testimony to recover future damages.

Wendy Holst v. Michael Stapleton, et al., No. 17-1270 (Iowa App. October 24, 2018).

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