This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Bridget B. Ellis,
Metropolitan Council Transit Operations, et al.,
Defendants and third-party plaintiffs,
William Allen Johnson, et al.,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 997605
Mark Lamoine Seeger, Paige J. Donnelly, Ltd., 900 Degree of Honor Building, 325 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Bridget B. Ellis)
Timothy W. Waldeck, Waldeck & Lind, P.A., 730 TCF Tower, 121 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents Johnson, et al.)
Eric J. Magnuson, Jan Marie Gunderson, Rider, Bennett, Egan & Arundel, 333 South Seventh Street, Suite 2000, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellants)
and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Peterson, Judge, and
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Appellants Metropolitan Council and Metropolitan Airports Commission challenge the trial court’s denial of a new trial, and in the alternative, remittitur of the jury’s award of $25,000 in future medical expenses, to $2000. Because there was a reasonable basis in the record for the jury’s awards of $25,000 for future medical expenses, we affirm.
Respondent Bridget Ellis was involved in a bus-truck accident on April 18, 1997, at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Respondent was a passenger in a bus, driven by Richard Walker, and owned by appellants Metropolitan Council and Metropolitan Airports Commission. The bus was struck by a truck driven by William Johnson, which was owned by LSG Sky Chefs.
On August 16, 2000, respondent filed a complaint against appellants and Walker, alleging negligence and seeking damages for the injuries sustained. Appellants filed a third-party claim against Johnson and LSG for contribution and/or indemnity for Johnson’s alleged contributory negligence.
A jury trial was held from June 26 to June 28, 2000. At trial, respondent claimed that she sought treatment for soft-tissue injuries and headaches after the accident. Three medical experts testified during the trial. The trial court precluded John Givogre, respondent’s chiropractor, from offering opinions with regard to respondent’s future treatment. Dr. Irfran Altafullah, a neurologist hired by appellants to conduct an examination of respondent, testified that respondent did not require future medical treatment.
Dr. Michael Sethna, respondent’s treating neurologist, opined, to a degree of medical certainty, that (1) respondent’s injury was permanent, to the extent that to a greater or lesser degree, she will have troubles like the ones she is currently experiencing for the foreseeable future, and (2) there “is a very good chance for another course of physical therapy and another set of doctor’s visits is likely.”
The jury found that Walker was negligent but did not place any liability on Johnson. The jury found appellants negligent and awarded respondent, among other things, $3,000 for pain and suffering and $25,000 in future medical expenses.
Appellants filed a motion for a new trial on the issue of future medical expenses and, in the alternative, remitter of the $25,000 award to $2,000. Appellants alleged that the evidence in the record was insufficient to justify an award of $25,000, and that it was excessive in light of the $3,000 award for pain and suffering. In a detailed memorandum of law, the trial court denied appellants’ request. This appeal follows.
Appellants argue that the district court abused its discretion in denying their motion for a new trial or, alternatively, remittitur of the $25,000 award of damages for future medical expenses to $2,000. Specifically, appellants argue that (1) the evidence does not justify the jury’s award for future medical expenses; and (2) the damages were excessive in light of the jury’s award for pain and suffering.
A new trial on the issue of damages is warranted where the verdict is so excessive that it could have only been rendered because of passion or prejudice. Schendel v. Hennepin County Med. Ctr., 484 N.W.2d 803, 809 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. July 16, 1992). The test for setting aside an excessive verdict is whether the amount of the verdict shocks the conscience. Verhel v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 709, 359 N.W.2d 579, 591 (Minn. 1984). This court may not reverse the trial court’s denial of a motion for a new trial in the absence of a clear abuse of discretion. LaValle v. Aqualand Pool Co., Inc., 257 N.W.2d 324, 328 (Minn. 1977). Likewise, this court will not overturn a trial court’s denial of a post-trial motion for remittitur in the absence of a clear abuse of discretion. Kamrath v. Suburban National Bank, 363 N.W.2.d 108, 112 (Minn. App. 1985). A remittitur may be granted if an excessive verdict has been given as a result of passion and prejudice, or if the evidence does not justify damages. Kwapien v. Starr, 400 N.W.2d 179, 184 (Minn. App. 1987).
To obtain an award of future medical expenses, respondent must meet two requirements: (1) she must show that future medical treatment will be required; and (2) she must establish the amount of damages through expert testimony. Lind v. Slowinksi, 450 N.W.2d 353, 358 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. Feb. 21, 1990).
Appellants allege that respondent failed to show that the future treatment will be required, noting that respondent’s own expert, Dr. Sethna, failed to testify with reasonable certainty that respondent would require future treatment and did not provide a duration for any physical therapy and treatment.
Appellant claims that Dr. Sethna’s testimony that there is a “very good chance” that future medical treatment will be necessary is speculative. But this court has previously concluded that this type of language is sufficient to support an award of future medical expenses. See Mueller v. Sigmond, 486 N.W.2d 841, 844 (Minn. App. 1992) (affirming the jury’s award of $154,000 for future medical expenses, where the expert witness opined that it is “very likely” and “reasonably certain” that the plaintiff would need future medical treatment), review denied (Minn. Aug. 27, 1992). Accordingly, through Dr. Sethna’s testimony, respondent met her burden of showing that future medical treatment will be required.
But to obtain an award of future medical expenses, respondent must also show, through expert testimony, the amount of damages. Lind, 450 N.W.2d at 358. Here, Dr. Sethna did not testify about what the damages would be. Appellants contend that because Dr. Sethna failed to provide such testimony, the jury’s award of $25,000 is based on speculation and is not supported by the evidence. However, this court has affirmed a jury’s award of future medical expenses, in the absence of specific testimony by the expert regarding amount of damages, when the jury was provided with the following: (1) the party’s life expectancy; (2) testimony that life-long medical treatment would be necessary; and (3) costs of past medical treatment. Kwapien, 400 N.W.2d at 184.
In Kwapien, the expert did not testify about the exact damages. However, this court affirmed the jury’s award of damages, noting that because (1) the expert testified that the respondent’s condition was permanent and “incurable,” requiring physical therapy or similar treatment for the rest of her life; (2) there was evidence of the costs of the treatments; and (3) the jury was instructed that the respondent had a life expectancy of 58.1 years, “the jury could have found that it was reasonably certain that respondent would incur future medical costs.” Id.
The facts in Kwapien are analogous to those in this case. Here, Dr. Sethna testified, to a degree of medical certainty, that respondent’s injuries were permanent. He stated that “she is going to be having troubles like this to a greater or lesser degree for the foreseeable future.” Dr. Sethna specifically noted that
[respondent] will need to be followed more while on tricyclic anti-depressant. My own experience with patients like this is that they usually flare at some point and typically we will send them back to physical therapy. And I don’t know how long that will go on. But I would say there is a very good chance for another course of physical therapy and another set of doctor’s visits is likely.
In addition to Dr. Sethna’s testimony, the jury was (1) instructed that respondent had a life expectancy of 50 years; and (2) provided with a summary of respondent’s prior expenses.
While there was no testimony specifically stating what respondent’s medical expenses would be, the jury could reasonably conclude, based on Dr. Sethna’s testimony, respondent’s life expectancy, and her prior medical expenses, that respondent’s future medical expenses would amount to $25,000. Because there was a reasonable basis for the jury’s award of $25,000 in future medical expenses, we cannot conclude that this figure “shocks the conscience” or was a result of passion and prejudice. Accordingly, we find no error in the district court’s decision to deny appellants’ motion for a new trial or remittitur.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.