This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. sec. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




Eva Kuznia,



Dawn Messerly,


Filed September 23, 1997


Lansing, Judge

Ramsey County District Court

File No. C4955301

Larry B. Stevens, Roseville Professional Center, 2233 North Hamline Avenue, Suite 412, Roseville, MN 55113 (for respondent)

Owen L. Sorenson, Suzanne Wolbeck Kvas, 1200 Norwest Center, 55 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by and Harten, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Randall, Judge.


LANSING, Judge In an appeal from the district court's denial of remittitur or a new trial in a personal injury action, we affirm. The record supports the district court's determination that the jury had an adequate evidentiary basis to award future medical expenses.

Eva Kuznia sued Dawn Messerly for injuries resulting from an automobile accident. The jury found that Kuznia sustained permanent injury and awarded $34,750.19 in damages, apportioning negligence twenty-seven percent to Kuznia and seventy-three percent to Messerly. The damage award included; $7,017.00 for past medical expenses; $8,048.00 for past wage loss; $10,000.00 for past pain and disability; $7,500.00 for future pain and disability; and $13,000.00 for future medical expenses. Messerly moved for a new trial, or in the alternative, remittitur, alleging that the $13,000.00 in future medical expenses was not supported by the evidence. Messerly also moved for a determination of set-offs and collateral sources.

The district court denied the motion for a new trial or remittitur, finding an adequate evidentiary basis for the award, but amended the order of judgment pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 65B.51, subd. 1 (1996), the collateral source rule. The amended judgment was entered for $27,445.86, plus costs and disbursements. Messerly appeals the district court's refusal to grant remittitur, or in the alternative, a new trial.[1]


The district court retains a large degree of discretion in deciding whether to grant or deny a remittitur. Hanson v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pac. R.R., 345 N.W.2d 736, 739 (Minn. 1984). When the district court grants remittitur, or refuses to grant it and states its reasons, it is unlikely that an appellate court will alter that decision. Sorenson v. Kruse, 293 N.W.2d 56, 62 (Minn. 1980). Our review of district court rulings on new trial motions is similarly narrow; we will reverse an order denying a motion for a new trial for insufficient evidence only if there is no evidence reasonably tending to sustain the verdict or if it is manifestly against the weight of the evidence. Austin v. Rosecke, 240 Minn. 321, 324, 61 N.W.2d 240, 243 (1953).

To recover future damages, a plaintiff must prove the reasonable certainty of the damages by a fair preponderance of the evidence. Pietrzak v. Eggen, 295 N.W.2d 504, 507 (Minn. 1980). The need for future medical care must be established by competent evidence; remote, speculative or conjectural evidence is insufficient. Id. The cost of future medical care must also be established by competent evidence, ordinarily through expert testimony. Lamont v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 395, 278 Minn. 291, 295, 154 N.W.2d 188, 192 (1967).

Although expert medical evidence is usually necessary to establish the reasonable certainty of future medical expenses, it is well established that the existence of future damages or permanent injuries may sometimes be inferred from other evidence. Carpenter v. Nelson, 257 Minn. 424, 430, 101 N.W.2d 918, 922 (1960). For example, a jury may have to rely on inferences when a plaintiff has not fully recovered at the time of trial. Id. Future medical expenses computed by multiplying the known cost of a prescribed drug by the number of needed injections over the plaintiff's projected life expectancy have also been upheld without requiring expert testimony. See Krutsch v. Walter H. Collin GmBh Verfahrenstechnik Und Maschinenfabric, 495 N.W.2d 208, 213-14 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (March 22, 1993) (permitting jury to estimate future medical expenses using previous medical bills and estimated life expectancy when opposing attorney did not object); Kwapien v. Starr, 400 N.W.2d 179, 184 (Minn. App. 1987) (allowing award for future medical expenses without direct medical testimony when amount could be computed by factoring life expectancy against cost of past treatment).

The district court based its denial of the new trial or remittitur on the jury's findings that Kuznia had sustained a permanent injury; that Kuznia had reasonably incurred medical expenses as a result of the injury; that in the three year period between the accident and the trial Kuznia had incurred approximately $7,000.00 in medical expenses; and that given Kuznia's life expectancy, the jury could reasonably conclude that approximately twice that amount would be incurred in the future as a result of her permanent injuries.

In her appeal contesting the sufficiency of the evidence, Messerly has provided us only with deposition transcripts of the two medical expert witnesses. See Godbout v. Norton, 262 N.W.2d 374, 376 (Minn. 1977) (noting that a reviewing court cannot consider a sufficiency of the evidence claim unless provided with a transcript of the trial). Although the absence of a full transcript impedes review, we conclude that even on this limited record, the expert testimony together with reasonable inferences from that testimony is sufficient to support the jury's determination.

Kuznia's expert witness and treating physician, Dr. Comfort, diagnosed Kuznia as suffering from acute cervical strain. The medical reports indicated straightening of the cervical spine, muscle spasms, ongoing pain in the right shoulder, chronic neck pain and recurring numbness and tingling in her fourth and fifth fingers. Kuznia continued to report these symptoms at the time of trial, three years after the August 24, 1993 accident. Kuznia had seen Dr. Comfort five times between April, 1996 and October, 1996, and on three of those occasions had subacromial cortisone injections in her right shoulder. It is true that both Comfort and Messerly's expert, Dr. Richard B. Edwards, testified that Kuznia had reached maximum medical improvement. But Comfort explained that his diagnosis was based on Kuznia's failure to respond to prescribed therapy. Comfort testified that in the future Kuznia would need to be seen on an as-needed basis and would need to self limit her activities. The record does not indicate that Kuznia's symptoms have substantially subsided. On these facts the jury could conclude that Kuznia's permanent injury was reasonably certain to require future treatment.

Medical records in evidence also showed the cost of Kuznia's previous treatment. Kuznia's medical bills at the time of trial totaled over $7,000.00. The ongoing cortisone injections cost approximately $140.00 each. Given the actuarial tables indicating Kuznia's life expectancy and the cost of past treatment, the jury could reasonably calculate that an additional $13,000 in medical expenses would be required over Kuznia's lifetime.

Because the record contains evidence that Kuznia will need ongoing treatment, records of the cost of pre-trial treatment, and actuarial tables estimating Kuznia's life expectancy, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to grant a new trial or remittitur of the jury's award of future medical damages.


[1] The notice of review and briefs also raised a collateral source set-off issue. At oral argument attorneys for Kuznia and Messerly stated on the record that they had resolved the collateral source dispute and withdrew that part of the appeal.