OF JUDGMENT: 02/02/2016
SUNFLOWER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. RICHARD A. SMITH
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: REBECCA HILLIARD HUTCHINS
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JAMIE D. TRAVIS
CARLTON, P.J., FAIR AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
David McLaughlin was making a left turn when he was struck by
an 18-wheeler attempting to pass him from behind. McLaughlin
claimed that he suffered damages from the accident in the
amount of $591, 000, including medical expenses, lost wages,
and pain and suffering. After trial, the jury found
McLaughlin comparatively negligent and returned a verdict of
$1, 400, solely for his medical expenses incurred on the day
of the accident. McLaughlin appealed, raising issues about
his liability and the amount of damages awarded. Finding no
error, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
In September 2010, McLaughlin was driving Darrel Romero home.
Leroy Washington,  the driver of an 18-wheel North Drew
Freight truck, attempted to pass McLaughlin on a two-lane
highway in rural northwest Mississippi. When questioned by
police, Washington stated that McLaughlin slowed and sped
back up several times before abruptly turning left in front
of him, failing to give a left turn signal. The 18-wheeler
struck the side of McLaughlin's car and pushed the car
approximately 150 feet into a shallow ditch on the west side
of the highway.
After the accident, both law enforcement and emergency
medical technicians (EMT) arrived at the scene. State Trooper
Jason Sheffield saw beer in the car and smelled alcohol on
McLaughlin's breath. He asked McLaughlin whether he had
been drinking. McLaughlin said no. Trooper Sheffield then
performed three separate roadside breathalyzer tests which
showed that McLaughlin was below .02 each time. He also
performed a field sobriety test.¶4. EMT Charles
Carouthers also claimed he smelled alcohol and observed beer
in McLaughlin's car. When he asked McLaughlin whether he
had been drinking, McLaughlin said he "took a sip"
of a friend's beer before driving. Carouthers also asked
McLaughlin if he would like to ride in the ambulance to the
hospital. McLaughlin initially declined but later changed his
mind and agreed to be transported to the emergency room.
At the time of the accident, McLaughlin worked as a
pipe-welding inspector on a contract basis for a commercial
construction company. He was no longer employed at the time
of trial. McLaughlin testified that he had been expecting to
sign a new contract for a job in South Carolina starting the
next week. He offered evidence that he earned $43, 816 in
2009 and $42, 816 in 2010. McLaughlin claimed damages for
lost wages in the amount of $60, 000, including lost fringe
benefits, medical insurance, and a payment of $70 a day.
After the accident, McLaughlin was treated by several
physicians. McLaughlin provided deposition testimony from one
in particular - Dr. Dinesh Goel, a family practitioner and
general surgeon. Dr. Goel testified that McLaughlin suffered
injury to the neck, back, and shoulder as a result of the
accident and would possibly require treatment for the rest of
his life. He also testified that McLaughlin suffered a
permanent 5% reduction in physical capacity as a result of
the injuries. McLaughlin offered into evidence all of his
medical bills, totaling $23, 306.20.
Ultimately, the jury found that each party was 50% negligent,
and it found McLaughlin had suffered $1, 400 in damages (the
medical expenses incurred on the day of the accident) and
rendered a verdict in his favor in that amount. McLaughlin
moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV),
which the court denied. McLaughlin now appeals asserting that
the jury's award was against the overwhelming weight of
the evidence and that the jury instructions were unclear.
A circuit court's refusal to grant a new trial is
reviewed for abuse of discretion. BobbyKitchens
Inc. v. Miss. Ins. Guar. Ass'n, 560 So.2d 129, 132
(Miss. 1989). In determining whether a verdict is against the
overwhelming weight of the evidence, this Court must view all
evidence in the light most consistent with the jury ...