This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Janeen Kay Braatz,
Rebecca Pauline Damron,
Filed February 15, 2000
Affirmed as modified
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 9720758
Sharon L. Van Dyck, Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, 5120 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)
Kay Nord Hunt, Lommen, Nelson, Cole & Stageberg, P.A., 1800 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402; and
Jill T. Doescher, Brett W. Olander & Associates, 900 Norwest Tower, 55 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.[*]
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Respondent Janeen Braatz suffered injuries to her back, neck, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) in a rear-end car accident, resulting in costs for her medical care and treatment and some wage loss. After a trial in which appellant Rebecca Damron admitted that her negligence directly caused Braatz’s injuries, a jury awarded Braatz $442,568.57, including $88,497 for future medical expenses and $307,500 for past and future pain and suffering. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Damron’s motion for a new trial or remittitur, but made an error in its collateral-source calculation, we affirm as modified.
D E C I S I O N
A trial court may grant a new trial because of excessive damages that appear to have been awarded under the influence of passion or prejudice or that are not justified by the evidence. Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01(e), (g); Busch v. Busch Constr., Inc., 262 N.W.2d 377, 400-01 (Minn. 1977). A trial court possesses "the broadest possible discretion in determining whether a new trial should be granted for excessive damages." Bisbee v. Ruppert, 306 Minn. 39, 48-49, 235 N.W.2d 364, 371 (1975). Damages are fact questions for the jury to decide based on the evidence, and wide deference is accorded a jury’s conclusion as to how much money will adequately compensate a plaintiff. Koehler v. Kline, 290 Minn. 485, 487, 185 N.W.2d 539, 541 (1971); Buttz v. Bergeson, 392 N.W.2d 917, 920 (Minn. App. 1986). Likewise, a trial court exercises discretion in granting or denying remittitur, and appellate courts will not reverse unless there was "a clear abuse of discretion." Kwapien v. Starr, 400 N.W.2d 179, 184 (Minn. App. 1987).
On appeal from a denial of a motion for a new trial, this court must view the evidence as a whole and in the light most favorable to the verdict. Roemer v. Martin, 440 N.W.2d 122, 124 (Minn. 1989). The verdict will stand unless it is manifestly and palpably contrary to the evidence. Id.
Damron argues the trial court abused its discretion in denying her new trial/remittitur motion because the jury’s future medical expenses award was excessive. A plaintiff must meet two requirements for an award of future medical expenses: (1) showing the necessity of future damages in the form of future medical treatments; and (2) establishing by expert testimony the amount of the damages. Lind v. Slowinski, 450 N.W.2d 353, 358 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. Feb. 21, 1990). The plaintiff must prove the reasonable certainty of future medical expenses by a fair preponderance of the evidence. Id.
The record reveals Braatz presented expert testimony regarding her past and future medical expenses. A chiropractor, a neurologist, and a doctor specializing in the treatment of cranial mandibular disorders testified as to Braatz’s condition and various treatments. While the chiropractor did not directly estimate Braatz’s future chiropractic expenses, the chiropractor’s testimony permitted the jury to take Braatz’s "life expectancy and factor it against the cost of her past physical therapy treatments" to reach a figure that "would not have been pure speculation." Kwapien, 400 N.W.2d at 184.
Neither the trial court nor the parties provided the jury with guidance as to how to discount the award to its present value. There is no evidence that the jury did not discount the award.
Damron also challenges the jury’s award for pain and suffering. When considering whether such a verdict is excessive, "a comparison with previous verdicts is not justified because of the variations in facts and [fluctuations] in the economy." Stenzel v. Bach, 295 Minn. 257, 260, 203 N.W.2d 819, 822 (1973) (citation omitted). Factors in this consideration may include past and future pain, permanent partial disability, life expectancy, and the inflationary trend of the economy. Id.; Omlid v. Lee, 391 N.W.2d 62, 64 (Minn. App. 1986). For instance, the Minnesota Supreme Court has affirmed large awards where a young plaintiff is involved. Schindele v. Ulrich, 268 N.W.2d 547, 552 (Minn. 1978) ($227,000 to 27-year-old plaintiff); Verhel by Verhel v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 709, 359 N.W.2d 579, 591-92 (Minn. 1984) ($200,200 to high-school girl). Moreover, while a damages award may be large compared to the severity of a plaintiff’s injuries, "the assessment of damages is the peculiar province of the jury." Schindele, 268 N.W.2d at 552.
The evidence presented at trial supports the jury’s award for pain and suffering. Braatz: (1) was 25 years old at the time of the accident; (2) suffers from a permanent disability to her back, neck, and TMJ; and (3) will experience constant pain for the rest of her life. Given these facts and the applicable standard of review, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Damron’s motion for a new trial or remittitur based on excessive damages for pain and suffering.
The parties agree the trial court erred in making its collateral-source calculation and that the correct amount should be $395,997. Therefore, under Minn. R. App. P. 103.04, we modify the award to reflect the correct amount.
Affirmed as modified.[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.