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Bonner v. Deyo

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

December 5, 2014

AUDREY BONNER, ET AL.
v.
DEAN DEYO, ET AL.

Session Date: October 22, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT00096112, Donna M. Fields, Judge

Eric J. Plumley, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Dean Deyo and Kathleen Deyo.

Joseph Michael Cook, Germantown, Tennessee, for the appellees, Audrey Bonner and Floyd Bonner, Jr.

J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Andy D. Bennett, J., and David R. Farmer, Sp. J., joined.

OPINION

J. STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE

Background

Plaintiffs Audrey Bonner and Floyd Bonner, Jr., (together, the "Bonners" or "Appellees") filed a complaint on March 2, 2012[1] against Defendants Dean Deyo and wife Kathleen Deyo (together, the "Deyos" or "Appellants") for damages stemming from an automobile accident that occurred on April 21, 2011.According to the Bonners' complaint, Ms. Bonner was driving her vehicle and stopped at a red light. Ms. Bonner, still stopped, was rear-ended by another vehicle driven by one of the defendants, Mr. Deyo. Although Ms. Deyo was not in the vehicle with her husband, she solely owned the vehicle driven by Mr. Deyo and is also a defendant. In the complaint, Ms. Bonner asserted that she sustained physical injuries to her head, neck, and other portions of her body, and that she incurred medical expenses associated with her injuries. Mr. Bonner asserted that Ms. Bonner's injuries caused him to lose the services and society of his wife.

On April 5, 2013, the Deyos filed their answer, denying the material allegations contained therein. Before trial, the parties stipulated to several facts by written agreement filed December 5, 2013. The parties stipulated to the authenticity and admissibility of Ms. Bonner's medical records and her vehicle's repair estimate.[2] Additionally, the parties stipulated to the definitions of several medical terms.

A jury trial was held on December 9 and 10, 2013. The record indicates that the Deyos conceded liability, and that the only issues for the jury to decide involved Ms. Bonner's medical expenses, her damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, and Mr. Bonner's loss of consortium damages.

Ms. Bonner testified at trial. She stated she was fifty-one years old at the time of the accident. Before the accident, she had left work around 5:00 p.m. and was traveling alone in her car on Union Avenue in Memphis. At trial, she recounted the accident:

As I was driving eastbound on Union, I was approaching the intersection of Union and Cooper. I was about four or five car lengths behind the light. The light was red. I was stopped at the red light, and I was sitting in the car with both hands on the steering wheel looking straight ahead. And all of a sudden, I heard - - I mean, all of a sudden I felt a big impact in the back of the car. Mr. Deyo actually rear-ended me unexpectedly in the car. . . There was no indication that he was even approaching me, no. I didn't hear the tires squeal, any rubber burning on the road or anything like that.

Ms. Bonner testified that the accident caused her head to "actually bounce[] back into the headrest of the - - on the seat of the car." According to Ms. Bonner, her airbag did not deploy, and she was unsure whether her car moved forward. She further stated that her head started "throbbing and I felt stiffness in my neck and I also felt dizzy." The police and fire department arrived at the accident scene shortly thereafter and asked Ms. Bonner if she needed an ambulance to take her to the hospital. She declined. However, her husband shortly arrived at the scene, and Ms. Bonner's dizziness continued. He asked her if she needed medical attention. Despite her dizziness and lightheadedness, she declined her husband's offer to take her to the hospital. A tow truck then removed her vehicle from the scene around 7:30 p.m.

When Ms. Bonner's dizziness and lightheadedness did not subside after several hours, she decided around 8:00 p.m. to go to the emergency room. At the hospital, Ms. Bonner said "[t]hey took my vitals, I had an x-ray, and the doctor actually examined me, my neck." She was discharged around 11:00 p.m. with a prescription for two medications, Lortab (a painkiller) and Robaxin (a muscle relaxer). Ms. Bonner testified that she did not fill either prescription because "I just don't like taking medicine. I'm just the type of person that if I'm in some pain, if I have a headache, I just go to sleep." Although she testified that she still felt "sluggish" after the hospital discharged her, she slept that night at her home and went to work the next day. She stated that by the day after the accident her dizziness and the throbbing sensation in her head had subsided. However, she testified that her neck stiffness was still present, even during trial, and that when she turns her head, her neck "pops." Although she said the pain was "not any type of excruciating pain, " she stated it was "enough to be annoying" and caused discomfort. She also stated that she had no stiffness, pain, or tenderness until the accident with Mr. Deyo. Ms. Bonner testified that she could "do the things that I've always done, but with some discomfort."

Although she previously had not had any neck pain, Ms. Bonner testified that her hospital x-ray at Saint Francis revealed some "arthritic changes in [her] neck." Her records indicate that she suffered from "cervical spondylosis."[3] However, Ms. Bonner indicated that she had never been diagnosed with or sought treatment for a neck or back injury prior to the accident with Mr. Deyo. In July 2011, several months after the accident, Ms. Bonner saw her primary care physician Dr. Michele Neal at a regularly scheduled appointment. She told her physician about the persisting conditions from the accident, and she was referred to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Sam E. Murrell at OrthoMemphis. Ms. Bonner had two appointments with Dr. Murrell, October 17, 2011 and March 26, 2012, both for neck pain. Ms. Bonner's records from OrthoMemphis indicate that Dr. Murrell and Ms. Bonner "discussed a possible anti-inflammatory, but she states she does not want to take any medications." Her reports from OrthoMemphis further state that she was having pain, but also that she had some "degenerative changes, " including "degenerative disc disease."[4] Dr. Murrell referred Ms. Bonner to a physical therapy group, Physiotherapy Associates. Her second visit with Dr. Murrell was on March 26, 2012. Dr. Murrell's report from her second visit stated that Ms. Bonner had been attending physical therapy, that she had been taking some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to combat her pain, and that she had "degenerative disc disease cervical spine with neck pain which exacerbated[5] her history after a motor vehicle accident." She was discharged from physical therapy on December 20, 2011, and her records reflect that the pain at that time was a three on a scale of one to ten and that she had reported an 80% improvement in her condition since starting therapy.

Also at trial, both Mr. and Ms. Bonner testified about their relationship. When asked about how their relationship had changed since ...


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