13, 2016 Session
from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 14C2157 Joseph
P. Binkley, Jr., Judge
that admitted liability for vehicle accident appeals the
award of damages to the injured Plaintiff, contending that
the awards for lost wages, lost future earnings, pain and
suffering, past and future, loss of ability to enjoy life,
past and future, and permanent impairment awards, are against
the preponderance of the evidence. Upon a thorough review of
the record, we modify the award for past medical expenses;
affirm the awards for past pain and suffering, permanent
impairment, past loss of ability to enjoy life and for loss
of ability to enjoy life in the future, and for lost wages;
reverse the award for future pain and suffering; and vacate
the award for loss of earning capacity and remand the case
for further consideration of the award.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Modified in Part, Affirmed in Part, Vacated in Part,
and Reversed in Part; Case Remanded
F. Blue, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, South
Central Tennessee Development District.
Stanley A. Davis, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee,
Richard H. Dinkins, J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and Andy D.
Bennett, J., joined.
RICHARD H. DINKINS, JUDGE.
Factual and Procedural History
14, 2013, Ms. Jonelle Hyde was involved in a motor vehicle
accident when Michael Crabtree, an employee of South Central
Tennessee Development District ("South Central"),
ran a red light and caused the South Central van he was
driving to collide into the driver's side of Ms.
Hyde's car. Ms. Hyde, the driver and sole occupant of her
car, was taken to Summit Medical Center, where she was
diagnosed with a strain in her thoracic spine and a contusion
to her right leg, and discharged with pain medication. On
June 16, Ms. Hyde went to St. Thomas Midtown Hospital
complaining of pain in her head as a result of hitting her
head on the window during the accident; she was examined,
diagnosed with a headache, and discharged with a prescription
for pain medication.
19, 2013, complaining of muscle spasms in her lumbar spine
and aches throughout her body, Ms. Hyde sought treatment from
Dr. Casey Bearden, a chiropractor. From June 19 to October
10, she was treated by Dr. Bearden a total of thirty-three
times, receiving physical therapy, electrical muscle
stimulation therapy, and therapeutic exercises. On August 20
and November 20, 2013, and January 27, 2014, Ms. Hyde visited
her primary care provider, Dr. Arikana Chihombori of the Bell
Family Medical Center, seeking treatment for conditions which
she reported were related to the accident.
Hyde filed suit on May 23, 2014, against Mr. Crabtree and
South Central; inasmuch as South Central is a governmental
entity covered under the Governmental Tort Liability Act,
Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-20-101, et seq.,
Mr. Crabtree invoked his immunity from suit under section
29-20-310(b) and was dismissed from the case. In due course,
South Central admitted liability for the accident, and a
non-jury trial on the issue of damages to Ms. Hyde was held
on November 9, 2015. On November 19, 2015, the court entered
an order awarding $271, 378.95 in compensatory damages,
allowed as follows:
1. Past medical expenses: $11, 079.50
2. Future medical expenses: 00.00
3. Lost Wages: $1, 257.75
4. Lost Future Earnings: $169, 041.60
5. Pain and suffering - past: $15, 000.00
6. Pain and suffering - future: $50, 000.00
7. Loss of ability to enjoy life - past: $5, 000.00
8. Loss of ability to enjoy life - future: $15, 000.00
9. Permanent impairment: $5, 000.00
Central appeals, articulating the following issues:
1. The preponderance of the evidence at trial is contrary to
the trial court's decision on the amount of past medical
expenses proximately caused and necessitated by the accident.
2. Trial court erred in its conclusion of law by using the
incorrect legal standard it applied to its decision to award
$169, 042.60 for lost future earnings and/or loss of future
earning capacity and further awarded an amount not supported
by the preponderance of the evidence in the case, when the
preponderance of the evidence was that plaintiff did not
suffer a loss of earning capacity.
3. Trial court's award for pain and suffering - past, in
the amount of $15, 000 for injuries alleged to have been
received in the June 14, 2013 accident, is contrary to the
preponderance of the evidence, and that the preponderance of
the evidence is that plaintiff/appellee Hyde did not suffer
an extended past period of pain and suffering.
4. Trial court's award of $50, 000.00 for future pain and
suffering was contrary to the preponderance of the evidence
which was the plaintiff/appellee Hyde failed in her burden of
proof to prove by a preponderance of evidence to a reasonable
certainty that plaintiff/appellee Hyde would experience
future pain and suffering.
5. Trial court's award of $5, 000.00 for permanent
impairment is contrary to the preponderance of the evidence,
and the preponderance of the evidence shows no award should
be given for permanent impairment.
6. Court's award of $15, 000.00 for loss of ability to
enjoy life in the future is contrary to the preponderance of
the evidence, which was plaintiff/appellee Hyde had not
suffered a loss of ability to enjoy life in the future.
7. Trial court's award for $5, 000.00 for loss of ability
to enjoy life in the past is not supported by the
preponderance of the evidence, and the preponderance of the
evidence is that she did not suffer as a result of the
accident a loss of ability to enjoy life in the past.
8. Trial court erred as a matter of law in its decision to
allow a document, Exhibit 16, that was inadmissible hearsay
into evidence as to her rate of pay and the number of hours
she allegedly missed from work after the accident, and
therefore the award of $1, 257.75 for lost wages should be
Standard of Review
of the trial court's findings of fact is de novo
upon the record accompanied by a presumption of correctness,
unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise.
See Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); Kaplan v.
Bugalla, 188 S.W.3d 632, 635 (Tenn. 2006). However,
where the trial court fails to make specific findings of fact
on an issue, we may conduct an independent review of the
record to determine where the preponderance of the evidence
lies. Gooding v. Gooding, 477 S.W.3d 774, 783 (Tenn.
Ct. App. 2015). Review of the trial ...