Tennessee Court of Appeals Rules in Car Accident Case

In a recent car accident case, Muller v. Higgins, Tenn. Ct. App. (2015), the Tennessee Court of Appeals heard an appeal based on allegations of a non-impartial jury.

The lawsuit stemmed from a two-car accident. At trial, the jury allocated 50 percent fault to each party, and the judge entered judgment based on that verdict. On appeal, the plaintiff claimed that the jury was not fair and impartial and that the evidence did not support its verdict.

The accident took place on a road that had one lane for each direction with an additional central lane for making turns. Through an unfortunate coincidence, it seems that both cars entered into the center lane and because of unfortunate timing did not see each other, and therefore collided. They then proceeded to a nearby parking lot, exchanged insurance information, and gave a report to a police officer. Neither driver reported suffering an injury at the time.

Shortly following the accident, the plaintiff reported having pain in his back and legs. He visited a doctor, who diagnosed him with a torn meniscus, which was later treated by surgery. He also sought treatment for back pain from two additional doctors.

The plaintiff thereafter sued the defendant for $750,000 in medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. The defendant denied liability, claiming that the accident was caused by the plaintiff’s negligence.

As previously stated, following the trial, the jury allocated the fault equally between the parties. The plaintiff’s motion for a new trial was denied, which led to this appeal.

The plaintiff argued on appeal that the court’s denial to exclude certain prospective jurors was in error, and that the resulting jury was neither fair nor impartial.

The court then engaged in an in-depth discussion regarding the manner in which jury members are selected, which is called voir dire. It stated that counsel may remove up to four jurors through the use of a peremptory challenge, without any cause or justification.

During the jury selection process, the plaintiff’s lawyer apparently challenged three prospective jurors for cause, and the request was denied by the court. The court then denied a fourth challenge of the plaintiff’s counsel during the second round of questioning.

The court found that there was insufficient evidence to support that the jurors were biased. It further found that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding of 50-50 fault.

Therefore, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed.

The personal injury attorneys at MHPS know that an automobile accident near Nashville or another Tennessee city can result in potentially life-changing harm. Victims often face the challenge of holding accountable the person who was responsible for hurting them. Reviewing your case with skilled attorneys soon after it happened can help you understand what rights and options you have in a timely manner. Our firm represents accident victims throughout Williamson and Davidson Counties, including in Brentwood, Antioch, and Madison. Contact us today to discuss your case.

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