ERNST MEINHART and CHRISTINE MEINHART, husband and wife, and the marital community composed thereof, Appellants,
MONICA ANAYA and JOHN DOE ANAYA, wife and husband, and the marital community composed thereof, Respondents.
and Christine Meinhart appeal the trial court's denial of
their motion for a new trial. The Meinharts were involved in
an automobile accident caused by Monica Anaya, and they filed
a lawsuit against her for personal injury damages. At trial,
Anaya did not dispute that Ernst and Christine were injured and
agreed that the jury should award some damages for their pain
and suffering. And Anaya's medical expert conceded that
both Ernst and Christine were injured in the accident and
received reasonable medical treatment for approximately five
months. However, although the jury awarded Ernst and
Christine almost all of their claimed medical expenses, it
awarded them no noneconomic damages.
Meinharts argue that the trial court abused its discretion in
denying their motion for a new trial because the jury's
omission of noneconomic damages was not supported by the
evidence. We agree. Accordingly, we reverse the trial
court's denial of the Meinharts' motion for a new
trial and remand for a new trial.
Accident and Injuries
October 2013, the Meinharts were stopped at an intersection
when Anaya's car collided with the rear of their pickup
truck. Ernst described the collision as a major jolt, and
Christine stated that the collision was like a bulldozer
hitting the truck. The collision bent the Meinharts' rear
bumper and damaged Anaya's front grill and bumper. Ernst
and Christine did not seek immediate medical attention.
next day, Ernst had pain in his neck and back and Christine
had a headache and pain in her neck, upper back, and lower
back. A week later, they started treatment with a
chiropractor, Dr. Don Finlayson. They both received regular
treatment from Dr. Finlayson until June 2014, when he
2015, the Meinharts filed suit against Anaya, seeking
economic and noneconomic damages. Anaya admitted liability
but contested the amount of damages.
Injuries and Treatment
trial, Ernst stated that before the accident, he had
experienced no problems with his neck or back. On the day of
the accident he did not feel any significant pain, but the
next day he had moderate to high pain in his neck and lower
back. On his first visit to Dr. Finlayson, Ernst rated his
neck, mid-back, and low back pain level as a seven on a scale
of zero to 10, with 10 being the most pain he could imagine.
Over the next several months his symptoms decreased in
intensity. By February 24, 2014, Ernst rated his neck and
mid-back pain level at two and his low back pain level at
three. However, he also noted that on other days the pain
levels may have been higher.
received treatment from Dr. Finlayson until June 6, 2014. At
that time, Ernst rated his neck and low back pain level at
between zero and two. He testified that he had made a good
recovery but was not 100 percent and still had some pain. He
had not returned to his pre-accident condition, and once in a
while he had pain that required medication. At the time of
trial, Ernst still felt pain in his neck a few times per
Finlayson stated that at an initial evaluation, Ernst had
moderate to severe pain in his neck, middle back, low back
and pelvis, and he had headaches. Ernst made progress through
the course of treatment until discharge on June 6, 2014. At
that time, Ernst was still having pain and had objective
findings of injury.
's Injuries and Treatment
trial, Christine testified that her symptoms began the day
after the accident. She developed a pounding headache and
moderate to severe pain in her neck that radiated to her
upper back and parts of her lower back. She began treatment
with Dr. Finlayson a week after the accident, at the same
time as Ernst. Medical records showed that on her first visit
to Dr. Finlayson, Christine rated her headache pain level as
a five, her neck pain level as a seven, and her mid-back and
low back pain level as a six on a scale of zero to 10. Her
symptoms gradually dissipated through the course of her
treatment. Christine received treatment from Dr. Finlayson
until June 6, 2014, and at that time she had no symptoms
relating to the October 2013 collision.
also testified about her pre-accident treatment with Dr.
Finlayson. In 2006 she sustained injuries in a car accident,
and she received treatment through 2007 for injuries to her
neck and back. Christine stated that after she was released
from treatment, she did not have any spinal problems.
However, medical records from May 2013 showed that she also
was complaining of neck pain that resolved with Advil and
that she had arthritis in her neck.
Finlayson testified that after the October 2013 accident
Christine had moderate to severe muscle pain and inflammation
in her neck, mid-back, low back and pelvis, and she had
headaches. Christine rated her neck pain level as a seven and
her mid-back and low back pain as a six on a zero-to-10
scale. Dr. Finlayson's diagnosis was that she had
sprained and strained her neck, mid-back, and low back and
that she had misaligned vertebra in those regions. He
provided regular treatment to Christine until she was
discharged on June 6, 2014. At that time, she had reached
maximum medical improvement.
Finlayson testified that Christine's 2006 accident would
predispose her to injury from the 2013 accident. But he also
stated that it would be illogical to conclude that her
symptoms in 2013 resulted from the 2006 accident alone.
trial court admitted into evidence Dr. Finlayson's
extensive medical records. Ernst and Christine had over 40
visits each to Dr. Finlayson in the seven months after the
accident, some of which included exercise therapy sessions.
Dr. Finlayson's records documented that Ernst and
Christine reported that they experienced pain in their necks
and backs during the entire period of treatment that
gradually decreased over time.
trial court also admitted into evidence billings from Dr.
Finlayson and from his massage therapist. Through June 6,
2014, Ernst's medical expenses totaled $4, 695 for Dr.
Finlayson and $280 for the massage therapist. Christine's
medical expenses totaled $4, 715 for Dr. Finlayson and $350
for the massage therapist.
of Defense Expert
sole damages expert was a chiropractor, Dr. Mark Sutton, who
examined Ernst and Christine in December 2015 and reviewed
their medical records. Dr. Sutton concluded based on
reasonable probability that Ernst suffered several injuries
in the 2013 accident: a mild to moderate strain of his neck,
mid-back, and low back. Dr. Sutton believed that reasonable
treatment for these injuries was 24 chiropractic treatments,
six exercise therapy ...