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Reel v. Warren

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 23, 2017

JOE REEL APPELLANT
v.
SANFORD WARREN APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/30/2015

         RANKIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. WILLIAM E. CHAPMAN III TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JOHN HUNTER STEVENS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JEREMY TRISTAN HUTTO

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., CARLTON AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. Joe Reel sued Sanford Warren for injuries sustained in a motor-vehicle collision when Warren rear-ended Reel. Warren admitted liability, and the case went to trial on damages. The jury awarded Reel $2, 480.12. Reel moved for a new trial or, in the alternative, additur or a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), which the trial court denied. Reel appeals the denial as error. Finding none, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2. On August 21, 2009, Warren caused a motor-vehicle collision when he rear-ended a vehicle operated by Reel's brother, in which Reel was a passenger, at the intersection of Highways 475 and 80 in Pearl, Mississippi. Warren admitted negligence, and the case proceeded to trial on the issue of damages. Reel submitted evidence of medical expenses totaling $10, 914.12, and claimed neck and back pain as a result of the accident. Reel also asserted he sustained an injury to his cervical spine that necessitated medical treatment.

         ¶3. At trial, Warren submitted photographs of Reel's vehicle, an accident report from the Pearl Police Department that makes no mention of injuries sustained at the scene of the accident, and admissions from Reel that he proceeded from the accident scene to another location to give an estimate for a prospective painting job and that he never went to the emergency room. Warren testified that he was traveling approximately five miles per hour when impact occurred, and that his vehicle only suffered a cracked headlight.

         ¶4. On direct examination, Reel and his wife both denied that Reel complained of neck pain prior to the accident. However, during cross-examination, it was demonstrated that Reel complained of neck pain dating back to 2006 and had undergone magnetic resonance imaging because of said pain, and preaccident medical records demonstrated that Reel suffered from cervical-degenerative-disc disease. It was also shown that Reel had a physical in November 2010, and his physician's notes stated that Reel was "doing extremely well, not having any major problems." Further, Reel admitted during direct examination that he fell at work in December 2011, yet denied any falls at work or home in his previous deposition. It was also demonstrated that Reel saw his physician in February 2012, that Reel told his physician about the fall, and that the physician told Reel that the fall probably exacerbated his neck pain.

         ¶5. Warren's medical expert testified that Reel's preaccident complaints of pain were consistent with cervical-degenerative-disc disease, that there was no evidence of any acute injury on Reel's postaccident diagnostic tests, and that based on comparisons of Reel's pre-and postaccident testing, the accident did not change the condition of Reel's neck. The jury found for Reel in the amount of $2, 480.12. Reel moved for a new trial or, alternatively, for additur or a JNOV. The circuit court denied Reel's motion. Reel now appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶6. On appeal, Reel asserts he was entitled to a new trial or additur[1] because the jury awarded damages ...


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