This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C0-02-1612

 

Ann M. Mason,

Appellant,

 

vs.

 

Daryl R. Aderman, Sr.,

Respondent.

 

Filed April 22, 2003

Affirmed in part, Reversed in part, and Remanded

Kalitowski, Judge

 

Anoka County District Court

File No. C80010730

 

Edward M. Glennon, Christopher H. Yetka, Christopher Lynch, Lindquist & Vennum, P.L.L.P., 4200 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)

 

George C. Hottinger, Erstad & Riemer, P.A., 200 Riverview Office Tower, 8009 34th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55425 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

KALITOWSKI, Judge

Appellant Ann M. Mason contends that the jury’s special verdict finding that she sustained future damages cannot be reconciled with the finding that she did not suffer permanent injury and that the district court abused its discretion in denying her motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, a new trial.  Respondent argues that the district court abused its discretion by awarding only $404 in costs and disbursements without making any findings as to why respondent’s claimed costs and disbursements totaling $4,452.17 were unreasonable.  We affirm the judgment but reverse and remand for findings and an award of reasonable costs and disbursements.

D E C I S I O N

 

I.

A jury verdict must be manifestly and palpably contrary to the evidence before it will be overturned.  Templin v. Crestliner, Inc., 263 Minn. 149, 151, 116 N.W.2d 178, 180 (1962).  The verdict will not be overturned if evidence reasonably tends to support it.  Kuehl v. National Tea Co., 310 Minn. 48, 50, 245 N.W.2d 235, 237 (1976).  A jury verdict may be overturned only if no reasonable mind could make the findings the jury did.  Belden Porter Co. v. The Kimball Co. Inc., 303 Minn. 98, 99, 226 N.W.2d 310, 310 (1975).  An appellate court must reconcile special verdict answers if possible.  Reese v. Henke, 277 Minn. 151, 155, 152 N.W.2d 63, 66 (1967).  And an inconsistent special verdict must be overturned.  Carufel v. Steven, 293 N.W.2d 47, 49 (Minn. 1980).

The evidence as a whole must be viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, and if the special verdict answers can be reconciled on any theory, the verdict must stand.

 

Coughlin v. LaBounty, 354 N.W.2d 48, 51 (Minn. App. 1984). 

Appellant contends that the testimony provided at trial showed that the future costs associated with treating the injuries appellant sustained as a result of the collision with respondent would total approximately $6,000 and that this total would cover all of appellant’s future medical expenses for the rest of appellant’s expected life.  Given that the jury awarded appellant $6,000 in damages for future health care expenses, appellant contends that the jury had to conclude that appellant’s injuries were permanent.  And because the jury found that the injuries were not permanent, appellant argues that the jury’s verdict is inconsistent and irreconcilable.  We disagree.

There is evidence to support the jury’s finding that appellant did not sustain any permanent injuries as a result of the collision.  Respondent’s medical expert testified that the collision caused appellant to sustain a cervical strain but that in his opinion, appellant’s injuries were not permanent and had healed by the time of the trial.  Respondent’s expert described the pain appellant still felt at the time of trial as being

consistent with the intermittent symptoms one would anticipate with the underlying degenerative changes that [appellant] has.  The findings of the MRI scan demonstrate chronic degenerative changes which are age related. 

 

Respondent’s expert thus believed the collision caused only a temporary aggravation of appellant’s previous degenerative changes and this expert testimony provided sufficient support for the jury’s finding that appellant did not sustain any permanent injuries as a result of the collision.

            The jury’s finding of no permanent injuries can be reconciled with the jury’s finding that appellant’s future health care expenses will total $6,000.  Contrary to appellant’s claim, the testimony presented at trial did not clearly establish a specific monetary award that would cover appellant’s total medical expenses for the rest of appellant’s expected life.  Appellant’s expert gave testimony regarding the frequency of chiropractic treatments necessary to treat appellant’s injuries and how much those treatments would cost.  Appellant’s expert testified that appellant could have between one and four flare-ups per year.  He then testified that the average flare-up is resolved within one to four visits.  Using these numbers, this would mean that appellant could require between 1 and 16 chiropractic treatments a year.  Since appellant’s expert testified that each visit would cost approximately $50, this means that appellant’s yearly medical expenses for chiropractic care could total between $50 and $800 per year.  At trial, it was stated that appellant was expected to live another 33 years.  Thus, appellant’s total future health expenses could amount to between $1,650 and $26,400. 

Based on this analysis, an award of $6,000 would not necessarily cover appellant’s future health care expenses for the rest of her life.  The jury’s verdict can thus be explained by the fact that the jury believed appellant sustained injuries as a result of the accident but that the injuries were temporary and could be cured after treatment over a limited number of years.

Appellant argues that since no expert testified at trial that appellant’s condition could be cured with such temporary treatments, such a theory cannot be used to sustain the verdict because the theory is contrary to all of the evidence presented at trial.  We disagree.  A jury is not required to accept or reject the testimony of each expert in full.  The expert’s testimony, like that of any other witness, can be believed in part and disbelieved in part.  Kundiger v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 219 Minn. 25, 29, 17 N.W.2d 49, 52 (1945). 

Given the contradictory medical evidence that was presented by the experts in this case, reasonable minds could differ as to whether appellant suffered permanent injuries and also as to the amount of future medical expenses appellant would accumulate in treating the injuries caused by the collision.  By finding that appellant did not suffer any permanent injuries, the jury accepted the testimony of respondent’s expert on that issue.  But by awarding appellant $6,000 in future health care expenses directly caused by the accident, the jury apparently rejected the testimony from respondent’s expert that the cervical strain appellant suffered as a result of the collision had healed.  The jury instead believed the testimony from appellant’s expert that future medical treatment was necessary to treat appellant’s pain.  While the jury may have agreed with appellant’s expert that future treatments were necessary to treat the occasional flare-ups caused by the accident, the jury apparently disagreed with him that these flare-ups would require appellant to seek chiropractic treatment for the rest of her life. 

Therefore, there is evidence that supports the jury’s finding that even though the collision did not cause appellant to suffer any permanent injuries, the collision did cause appellant to suffer temporary injuries that would require $6,000 in future medical expenses to treat.  By both accepting and rejecting a part of each medical expert’s opinions, the jury reached a verdict that was neither inconsistent nor irreconcilable. 

Finally, we agree with the district court’s observation that the jury did what it was instructed to do, which is answer all of the questions on the special verdict form without regard to the impact that such answers may have upon other responses in the verdict form.  Therefore, even though we conclude the special verdict findings here were reconcilable, we agree with the district court that apparent inconsistencies may be the product of the instructions suggested in CIVJIG 90.10, which instruct a jury to not consider the possible effect that an award of damages may have on a jury’s answers to other questions on the verdict form.

II.

Rule 68 provides that any party may serve upon an adverse party an offer to allow judgment to be entered to the effect specified in the offer or to pay or accept a specified sum of money, with costs and disbursements then accrued, either as to the claim of the offering party against the adverse party or as to the claim of the adverse party.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 68.  If the offer is accepted, either party may file the offer with the district court and the court administrator shall enter judgment.  Id.  If the offer is rejected and the final judgment entered is not more favorable to the offeree than the offer, the offeree must pay the offeror’s costs and disbursements.  Id

And “in every action in a district court, the prevailing party * * * shall be allowed reasonable disbursements paid or incurred * * * .”  Minn. Stat. § 549.04 (2002). The decision to allow costs and disbursements is discretionary with the district court and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. See Jonsson v. Ames Constr., Inc., 409 N.W.2d 560, 563 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Sept. 30, 1987).  “The standard by which the court’s discretion is measured is whether expenditures are reasonable.”  Id.  “[A]bsent a specific finding that the costs were unreasonable, the court shall approve recovery of disbursements.”  Id. 

Here, prior to the trial, appellant rejected a rule 68 offer of settlement in the amount of $14,500 from respondent.  After the trial, the jury returned a defense verdict, resulting in a net recovery of zero for appellant.  Following the jury’s verdict, the district court issued an order that dismissed appellant’s complaint with prejudice and required appellant to pay respondent’s costs and disbursements.

Respondent contends that the district court abused its discretion by awarding respondent only $404 in taxable costs and disbursements without making any findings as to why respondent’s claimed costs and disbursements totaling $4,452.17 were unreasonable.  Reasonable and necessary costs include:  the taking and transcribing of depositions, Johnson v. Southern Minn. Mach. Sales, Inc., 460 N.W.2d 68, 73 (Minn. App. 1990); videotaped depositions of medical experts, Anderson v. Honaker, 365 N.W.2d 307, 309 (Minn. App. 1985); and fees incurred for expert testimony, Carlson v. Mut. Serv. Cas. Ins. Co., 527 N.W.2d 580, 584 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Apr. 27, 1995).

Respondent here submitted a list of costs and disbursements to the district court that included:  (1)  $110.37 for the deposition of respondent; (2) $110.37 for the deposition of appellant; (3) $232.40 for the trial testimony deposition of respondent’s medical expert; (4) $1,300 for the medical examination of appellant given by respondent’s medical expert; and (5) $2,200 for the trial testimony fee of respondent’s medical expert.  These claimed costs totaled $3,953.14.  But without making findings as to why any of those claimed costs were unreasonable, the district court denied recovery for any of those costs.

            We conclude that the district court abused its discretion by denying the prevailing party a significant amount of claimed costs and disbursements without making any findings as to why the claimed costs and disbursements were unreasonable.  We therefore reverse and remand for (1) findings on respondent’s reasonable costs and disbursements; and (2) an award of costs and disbursements to respondent based on these findings.

            Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.