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Court of Appeals upholds $39,000.00 verdict for motorcyclist's serious injuries

Andrew Raffaele suffered a separated shoulder, a broken toe and serious leg fractures around his knee in a motor vehicle collision.  He sued Marilyn and Brian Brennan for non-economic damages when their insurer offered what Raffaele considered an unreasonably small settlement.  After a jury trial, Raffaele was awarded $39,000.00 in damages--$30,000.00 for the 20 months prior to trial, $1,000.00 per year for the next  four years, and $6,000.00 for 2012 (the future damages were reduced to present value in the judgment).  Raffaele appealed, arguing that this damage award was inadequate under the evidence and that he should be granted a larger conditional award (additur) or a new trial if the Defendants rejected the additur.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the evidence and noted that Raffaele required two surgeries on his "seriously injured" leg.  He was hospitalized twice and attended more than 100 medical visits.  He returned to work after 8 months, working full time during 8 of the next 12 months. He is likely to have permanent scarring and swelling in his lower leg and must continue to wear a compression sleeve.  He has a foot drop on that side, but it may continue to improve.  He limps and endures substantial pain, however that is likely to improve when his knee is replaced, as surgeons anticipate in the near future. 

Concluding that Raffaele's "activities were only limited by his tolerance, and that he took no pain medication" the Court (Judges Talbot, Whitbeck and Owens) determined that by the time his knee was replaced, age might cause him to give upo running and jumping activities, in any event, and therefore the jury did not err by ending his compensation.  The Court held that "it was within the province of the jury to decide not to continue to compensate plaintiff in the future for these [remaining] conditions." 

This outcome just seems a travesty, any way you analyze it.  To suggest that a thousand dollars a year for four years, under these circumstances, and then $6,000.00 for the year of a knee replacement, followed by no compensation whatsoever, could reasonably be considered "full and fair compensation" for wrongfully caused serious injuries is simply absurd.  We wonder which of these judges  or jurors would be satisfied if a loved one suffering a similar injury were compensated in such a penurious manner.  If we are simply going to play roulette with compensation awards and not attempt to maintain them within reasonable boundaries, we might as well give up claiming that we have a system of fair compensation.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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