Fight over serious impairment and insurance surveillance "gamesmanship"
In Laukkanen v. Jason, the injured Plaintiff secured a verdict against the driver who rear-ended her at a stop light. Plaintiff worked as a physical therapist and had to undergo substantial medical treatment after the collision. MRI and EMG testing showed abnormalities consistent with her accident-injury claims, and she endured having to wear a back brace, physician-restrictions on her activities, numerous medical therapies including orthopaedic manipulation, and physical therapy. She provided extensive evidence supporting the limitations on her normal work duties and life activities. Despite this evidence, the insurer claimed she did not suffer a "serious impairment of bodily function", and asked the Court of Appeals to set the verdict aside.
Not only did the trial court and the Court of Appeals reject the insurer's claim of no serious impairment, it also upheld the trial court's refusal to countenance the Defendant's "gamesmanship" in secretly taping the Plaintiff and then lying about it. The Court had required both sides to disclose their evidence months before the trial (a standard scheduling order) and the Plaintiffs had also filed motions to compel the Defendants to produce any surveillance evidence. The Court criticized the Defendant for lying about the existence of this evidence, failing to produce it for more than four months, and producing other photographic and video evidence without producing the hidden surveillance until a few days before trial--too late for the Plaintiff to examine the evidence or respond to Defendant's arguments about what it showed.
The Court held that the trial court did an excellent job of carefully considering the circumstances of the Defendant's "gamesmanship" and blatant violation of the court's discovery rules. The Appeals Judges felt that excluding this imporper evidence was a proper exercise of the trial court's discretion and refused to overturn its decision.