Woman gets verdict against employee but not employer; court rejects appeal to overturn it
Angela Dykes was badly hurt when Tarlochan Singh crossed the centerline and struck her car. Singh was an employee of West Michigan Cardiology; he was on his way home, although he had not completed an 8-hour day. Dykes argued that since he was still being paid, he was employed at the time of the collision, making WMC responsible for injuries he caused.
The trial judge dismissed the claim against WMC, finding that Singh's pay was calculated hourly but paid on the basis of a 32 hour week, regardless of how many hours he worked. Therefore, since he was traveling between his home and his work site, he was not engaged in his employment and his employer was not responsible for injuries he caused. The Court of Appeals agreed with this decision on appeal, and it also rejected the several appellate issues raised by Singh.Singh noted that work had been cancelled because of foul weather and that he was traveling below 55 miles per hour. Therefore, he argued that the jury should not have found him guilty of negligence. A following motorist had testified that he appeared to be in a hurry and that he was following too close to the vehicle in front of him; therefore, the jury had a factual basis for its decision.
Singh argued that he should have been allowed to poll the individual jurors after the verdict for evidence of religious or ethnic prejudice. Such polling is not allowed absent actual evidence that misbehavior has occurred: the Court of Appeals refused to allow a "fishing expedition" to search for evidence in a vacuum.
Singh also argued that he was prejudiced by the admission of a photograph showing a piece of Dykes's leg bone embedded in the dashboard of her vehicle. The Court noted that the photograph, although graphic, supported her claim of a severe injury with bone loss and leg-shortening. Therefore, it was not error to admit the photograph. Finally, the Court rejected Singh's request for a remittur order reducing the non-economic damage verdict from its original 5 million dollars (before reduction to present value). The Court held that absent any examples of comparable, smaller verdicts involving permanent physical disability, permanent disfigurement, chronic pain and depression, the Court could not conclude that the verdict was outside the range of reasonable.