Michigan Court of Appeals Reverses Jury’s Zero Award for Pain and Suffering Damages in Personal Injury Case
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The Michigan Court of Appeals has reversed the Marquette County Circuit Court’s decision not to order a new trial where a jury found no noneconomic damages for a young woman injured in a ski crash. For background, “noneconomic damages” are damages for pain, suffering, denial of social pleasure/enjoyment and impairment of a person’s body. In Pietila v Wisotzke, the injured person, a junior in high school at the time, was hurt when another skier crashed into her while downhill skiing at a resort near Marquette, Michigan. The injured young woman was hospitalized for almost two weeks, suffering multiple fractures to her facial bones and skull. She also broke her jaw, nose, knee and hand. After reconstructive surgeries and hospitalization, she lost her ability to smell, had decreased ability to taste food, a clicking jaw and limited mobility of her jaw. She filed a lawsuit against the other skier. The case went to a jury trial. The jury awarded the injured young woman some economic damages for her out-of-pocket medical expenses. However, it awarded her zero for her pain, suffering and other noneconomic damages. She asked for a new trial. The trial court denied her request for a new trial, largely basing its ruling on the fact that she made a significant recovery after the crash. She appealed. The Michigan Court of Appeals found that the jury’s decision to award no noneconomic damages was grossly inadequate and against the great weight of the evidence. The appeals court held that “[w]e find it inconceivable however, that plaintiff did not suffer excruciating pain from the time of injury until she was anesthetized, as well as during the recuperation process.” The court also found that the zero award was grossly inadequate as to impairments of her body and her convalescence period. The court reversed the trial court and sent the case back for a new trial on the amount of noneconomic damages.

The law firm of Numinen, DeForge & Toutant, P.C. represents people injured by preventable errors, inactions, mistakes and accidents that are the fault of other people or companies. The firm handles personal injury cases involving recreational crashes, propane explosions, car accidents, police brutality and other personal injury claims. The firm represents clients throughout the Upper Peninsula, including Marquette, Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Menominee and Iron Mountain. To speak to an attorney, please contact Phil Toutant at phillip@numinenlaw.com or at (906) 226-2580.