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Bell v. Moore

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

October 4, 2019

Shawn Odell Bell
v.
Erwin Deandre Moore

          Appeal from Dallas Circuit Court (CV-17-900148)

          MOORE, JUDGE.

         Shawn Odell Bell appeals from an order of the Dallas Circuit Court ("the trial court") granting a motion for a new trial filed by Erwin Deandre Moore. See § 12-22-10, Ala. Code 1975. We reverse the trial court's order.

         Procedural History

         On August 4, 2017, Moore filed a complaint against Bell, alleging that Bell's negligent and/or wanton conduct had caused an automobile collision between his automobile and an automobile being driven by Moore and seeking damages.[1] Bell answered the complaint on November 15, 2017. The parties ultimately stipulated that Bell was liable for causing the accident and that the case would proceed to a jury trial on the issue of damages based on only Bell's negligence. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Moore and awarded him damages in the amount of $40, 000. The trial court entered a judgment on the jury's verdict. Moore filed a motion for a new trial, asserting

"that the judgment entered in favor of ... Moore is inadequate in that the jury, after liability was stipulated to between the parties, failed to award damages to [Moore] in the total amount of medical bills stipulated to as having been incurred by [Moore] as a result of the accident, and failed to award damages to [Moore] for pain and suffering as required by Alabama law."

         On March 19, 2019, the trial court granted the motion for a new trial. On March 28, 2018, Bell filed his notice of appeal.

         Facts

         The facts adduced at the trial were largely undisputed. On May 11, 2016, an automobile being operated by Bell collided into the rear end of the automobile being operated by Moore. Moore testified that he had driven himself to the emergency room for treatment of neck and back pain the same date that the collision took place. Moore was subsequently treated by Dr. Park Chittom, an internal-medicine physician, and he eventually underwent an MRI, which indicated that he had suffered a T6-7 disk herniation. Dr. Chittom referred Moore to Dr. Timothy Holt, an orthopedic surgeon, for treatment. Dr. Holt recommended that Moore undergo conservative treatment consisting of physical therapy. By the time of the trial, Moore had completed two rounds of physical therapy and had been referred for an additional round. Dr. Holt testified that Moore's neck pain had subsided but that his back pain had persisted. Dr. Holt testified that Moore, more likely than not, would need additional physical therapy in the future. Dr. Holt indicated that it was possible that Moore might need an epidural injection or surgery in the future but that he had not had to undergo that type of treatment thus far. Dr. Holt testified that surgery would be a last resort and that he had observed that Moore had improved with physical therapy.

         It was undisputed that the total medical charges incurred by Moore related to the automobile collision were $40, 227.14. However, Moore admitted that his medical-insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama ("BCBSAL"), had paid for most of his medical treatment. Specifically, Moore testified that he had had to pay a $300 deductible for the initial visit to the emergency room, as well as a $35 copay for each doctor's office visit. The exhibits introduced at trial indicate that Moore had had nine visits with Dr. Chittom and six visits with Dr. Holt. Additionally, Moore had had two rounds of physical therapy for which he had incurred charges of $2, 274 and $2, 817, respectively. With regard to his physical-therapy expenses, Moore testified that he had had to pay a $300 deductible and then 20% of the total charges incurred. The exhibits also indicate that Moore was responsible for charges in the amount of $254.01 for an MRI.

         Moore testified that his pain is a constant issue but that, other than a one-week absence immediately following the accident, he had been able to continue working as a firefighter. Moore represented that he was not claiming damages as a result of lost wages.

         There was no evidence presented indicating whether Moore would have to reimburse BCBSAL for the amounts it had paid on behalf of Moore in the event that he recovered an award of damages in this case. However, Moore's attorney argued during closing arguments, without objection, that Moore would have to reimburse BCBSAL $5, 314 if he recovered an award of damages.

         Standard of Review

         "The decision whether to grant a motion for a new trial is within the discretion of the trial court; however, a trial court's order granting a motion for a new trial may be reversed where the jury's verdict is supported by the evidence and the trial court is plainly and palpably wrong in ...


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