Taylor Rouse recently obtained a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court of Alabama. In Hicks v. Allstate, the plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended, causing injuries to her back, neck, and head. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the Madison County Circuit Court against her underinsured motorist insurance carrier, Allstate. At trial, the plaintiff presented evidence that her body was thrown forward and then backward, and her head hit the passenger-side window of the car. The plaintiff’s doctors diagnosed her with a whiplash injury, concussion, posttraumatic headaches, and a slipped disc in her lower back pain. The plaintiff’s lower back pain did not resolve, and she ultimately required a two-level spinal fusion. This required the placement of screws and rods in her spine that will likely remain in her body forever. The fusion caused those vertebrae to no longer bend, which adds stress to the vertebrae above and below the fusion and causes a probable 10 to 15 percent chance of developing adjacent level significant disease. The plaintiff also testified that she had scarring at the site of the incision.
The plaintiff moved to introduce a mortality table into evidence, which would show the average life expectancy of the plaintiff and can aid the jury in understanding how long a person will have to deal with permanent problems. The Madison County Circuit Court, however, refused to admit the mortality table into evidence. Although the jury returned a $135,000 verdict for the plaintiff, she appealed the trial court’s ruling on the mortality table and asked for a new trial.
The Alabama Supreme Court unanimously reversed the trial court and ordered a new trial. The Court said the evidence presented allowed the jury to determine that the plaintiff suffered a permanent injury and that a mortality table could aid the jury in determining the amount of damages that would compensate the plaintiff for her permanent problems. Due to Taylor’s convincing writing at the Alabama Supreme Court, the plaintiff will now get a new trial where the jury will consider how the plaintiff’s permanent injuries will affect her for the rest of her life.
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