Connecticut Appeals Court Upholds Verdict for Plaintiff Following Car Accident

A defendant and her employer, Eastern Connecticut Health Network, Inc., appealed from a trial court judgment for the plaintiff following a jury trial on his negligence claim resulting from a car accident. The Connecticut Court of Appeals affirmed.On November 21, 2012, at approximately 4:45 p.m., the plaintiff exited off Interstate 84 in Manchester. When the left arrow for his lane turned green, he proceeded slowly into the intersection. The defendant, who was traveling east on Deming Street in her Toyota Camry, hit the plaintiff’s car on the driver’s side door. Although the defendant applied her brakes prior to the impact, the plaintiff still sustained serious, life-threatening injuries. Several witnesses saw the accident and gave statements to the police or provided testimony to the jury. The statements and testimony of those witnesses varied greatly. Some of the witnesses stated that the defendant ran through a red light and that the plaintiff had a green light. Other witnesses stated that the plaintiff ran through a red light and that the defendant had a green light.

The plaintiff filed a negligence complaint against the defendant, and, in a separate action, he alleged vicarious liability against Eastern Connecticut Health Network, Inc., since the accident occurred during the course of the defendant’s employment. The defendants each filed answers and raised the special defense of comparative negligence. In their special defenses, the defendants alleged that the plaintiff had been negligent in several different ways, including that he entered the intersection while his light was red, that he failed to observe the east and west traffic and that it was not safe to enter the intersection, and that he failed to maintain a reasonable lookout for other vehicles. The plaintiff denied the special defenses.

The two separate cases against each defendant later were consolidated for trial. The jury returned a plaintiff’s verdict, and the defendants filed a motion to set aside the verdict, which the court denied. The defendants appealed.

The defendants first claimed that the lower court improperly refused to instruct the jury that it could apportion liability on the basis of comparative negligence as requested in their proposed charge. Specifically, they argued that there was a “clear record [of] evidence supporting a comparative negligence finding” and that there are statutes supporting such a finding and a jury charge on this issue. Concluding that the defendants did not present these evidentiary arguments, statutes, and cases to the trial court, and furthermore that they failed to comply with the specific requirement in Practice Book § 16-23 to set forth evidence to support a comparative negligence instruction in their requested charge, the appeals court declined to review this claim.

The defendants next claimed that the court improperly permitted the plaintiff, over their objection on the basis of relevancy, to introduce character evidence in the form of his driving history. Specifically, the defendants argued that “the trial court allowed the plaintiff to testify that he had only been involved in one other car accident, which occurred approximately twenty years ago, when a car bumped him while he was stopped at a light.” The appeals court concluded that this claim was not preserved for appellate review because the defendants objected to the subject testimony on the basis of relevance, rather than improper character evidence.

Finally, the defendants also claimed that the court abused its discretion in denying their motion to set aside the verdict. Specifically, the defendants argued that “the trial court should have set aside the verdict based on the jury’s failure to consider comparative negligence, the improper jury charge regarding comparative negligence and/or the improper admission of evidence regarding the plaintiff’s driving history.” The appeals court also rejected this argument, reasoning that its resolution of the defendants’ preceding claims, which formed the basis of the third claim, was determinative of the outcome of the third claim. Accordingly, the court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendants’ motion to set aside the verdict.

If you have been hurt by a careless driver, you may need the assistance of a car accident lawyer to seek compensation. At the Neumann Law Group, our Massachusetts attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation to victims all over the state. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or use our online form to set up a free consultation.

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