Jan 16, 2019 Last Updated 3:19 PM, Oct 3, 2017

Insurance Co. tries to Sidestep Payment to Plaintiff

Published in IGOTHIT.COM

Going Up Against the Insurance Companies

In March 2008, Ms. Ashlee Pagan was driving her truck when it struck a car that had turned in front of her. She filed suit, alleging the driver of the other car was negligent and caused the crash that resulted in injuries to her neck and left shoulder and damage to her truck. Ms. Pagan added Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Company as a defendant in the lawsuit to access coverage under her own underinsured motorist insurance policy. She settled with the other driver, and the case proceeded to a jury trial in which the only disputed issues were the cause and extent of Ms. Pagan's alleged injuries. Farmers stipulated that the other driver's negligence was the proximate cause of the collision and that Pagan was covered under the Farmers policy.

Mounting Medical Bills

At trial, Ms. Pagan testified about the accident, the injuries to her neck, back, and shoulder, and her seeking medical care the day after the crash, which was confirmed by the hospital. Ms. Pagan also said she reported her symptoms to staff at the office of her family doctor, but the medical record only shows her doctor's having prescribed pain medication for her. The jury also heard testimony from Dr. Carl Beaudry, an orthopedic surgeon, whose opinion was that Ms. Pagan's shoulder problems were the result of the March 2008 crash and that she would soon need arthroscopic shoulder surgery costing $20,000-$25,000.

Previous v. Present Injuries

After a motion by Ms. Pagan's counsel, the trial judge ordered Farmers to obtain the court's permission before submitting evidence regarding any injuries Ms. Pagan may have suffered after the 2008 car crash, or a specific incident in April 2009 when a horse spooked as Ms. Pagan was leading it into a barn, pushing her down. According to Ms. Pagan, the horse spooked as she was trying to lead it through a narrow doorway. The horse then darted forward and pushed her, and she fell down. Ms. Pagan denied that the horse stepped on her, much less "trampled" her.

The judge excluded a number of items of evidence that were offered by Farmers. The jury then returned a verdict awarding Ms. Pagan $50,000. The trial court offset the other driver's settlement of $25,000 against the jury's award of $50,000, signing a final judgment for $25,000 plus pre- and post-judgment interest.

Appealing the Verdict

Farmers appealed, contending the jury should have been allowed to decide "[w]hether [Pagan's] 2009 horse trampling accident proximately caused, in whole or part, [her present] incapacity." Farmers wanted the jury to see such evidence as an interrogatory answer, in which Ms. Pagan stated only that she had gone to Diagnostic Health in April 2009 after she fell off a horse.

The Court of Appeals found the trial court rightly excluded this evidence because Ms. Pagan did not state in her interrogatory answer that she had injured her neck or shoulder when she fell off the horse. Farmers also wanted to introduce the Diagnostic Health records, in which it was noted that Ms. Pagan had been trampled by a horse and had suffered contusions (bruises).

However, the Court of Appeals found these were also rightly excluded because they did not show that Ms. Pagan had suffered an injury to either her neck or shoulder, since x-rays taken soon after the horse incident showed normal spine and shoulders. Farmers also wanted to introduce excerpts of Dr. Faseler's medical records, notes in which Ms. Pagan reported neck and shoulder pain at a time shortly after the 2009 horse incident, but the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that these should have been excluded because they do not mention the incident.

As provided by Texas Rule of Evidence 403, a trial judge may exclude evidence when any probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury. Since Farmers' evidence could not show factually that the horse incident was a plausible cause of Ms. Pagan's ongoing injuries, the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court could reasonably have decided to exclude the evidence under Rule 403. The Court of Appeals therefore denied Farmer's appeal and affirmed the judgment for Ms. Pagan.

Going Up Against the Insurance Companies with Confidence

If you have been injured in a crash due to the negligence of someone else, you need an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable not only about accidents and negligence, but who also has the ability to go up against the big insurance companies.

Contact the firm of Godsey Martin today. We can provide you a thorough evaluation of your case, at no cost or obligation to you. Start by filling out our free case evaluation form, or call us at 877-IGOTHIT. We look forward to helping you find the justice you deserve.

Ryan Rogers

"I was inspired by my father who has practiced as attorney for over 40 years. The more I learned about the practice of law, the more I enjoyed it."

"I enjoy travel, going to live music venues and playing tennis with my fiancé and her children.'

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