Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alaska issued an opinion in a car accident case, affirming the lower court’s decision to uphold the jury’s defense verdict. In addition, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision to award reasonable attorney’s fees to the defendant after it was shown that the plaintiff turned down a reasonable pre-trial offer.
The plaintiff, Marshall, was stopped at a red light, waiting to make a turn. The defendant, Peter, pulled up behind Marshall and came to a complete stop. At the time, the roads were icy and very slick, but Peter was able to come to a complete stop behind Marshall without issue.
When the light turned green, Marshall started to pull forward. Peter then lifted his foot off the brake pedal and started to roll forward. As he did so, Marshall stopped her car in the intersection as another car approached. Peter attempted to stop his car, which was going about three miles per hour at the time, but his car slid on the ice and into the back of Marshall’s car.
Marshall filed a personal injury lawsuit against Peter, claiming that he was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. During pre-trial negotiations, Peter’s insurance company offered Marshall roughly $2,700 to settle the case, but Marshall did not respond to the offer, effectively rejecting it.
The case went to trial, and the jury found in favor of the defense. After the trial, Peter asked the court to order Marshall to reimburse him for his attorney’s fees. The court agreed and awarded Peter roughly $65,000 in attorney’s fees.
Marshall, not satisfied with the result at trial, filed an appeal. On appeal, Marshall argued that no reasonable juror could have found that Peter was not negligent and that the trial judge should have overrode the jury’s verdict. However, the appellate court disagreed, noting that “reasonable minds could differ” as to whether negligence was involved or whether it was just an unfortunate car accident. The court explained that there was no evidence that Peter was unaware of the icy road, and he was only moving at three miles per hour at the time of the collision. In other words, the jury was free to decide that this was just something that can happen without fault on icy roads.
Regarding the attorneys’ fees, the court explained that the applicable rules allow for a trial judge to order the losing party to pay reasonable attorney’s fees to the opposing party when the losing party has turned down a reasonable settlement offer before the trial. As a result of this ruling, Marshall will not only be prevented from recovering compensation for her injuries but will also be responsible for Peter’s attorney’s fees.
Have You Been Involved in a South Florida Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of South Florida accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, not every case is meant to go to trial. Some cases are better settled for a fair amount before engaging in a full trial. With a dedicated personal injury attorney’s assistance, you can better understand what you can expect regarding your case. Call 954-431-8100 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney from the South Florida law firm of Cohn & Smith.
Related Blog Posts:
Product Liability Appeal Dismissed, Based on Plaintiff’s Failure to Show Alternative Design, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, September 19, 2016.
Court Interprets Insurance Policy as “Per Accident” Rather Than “Per Insured Vehicle,” Limiting Company’s Liability, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, September 6, 2016.