Future Medical Expenses? Only If the Doctor Testifies they Are Likely


Recently, a Georgia appeals court issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from serious injuries a victim suffered in a motor vehicle accident. There was no debate about who caused the crash and no debate about the past medical care. The issue was whether the jury was allowed to consider the future medical care.

The defendant in the matter admitted responsibility, and the jury awarded the plaintiff $25,000 in past damages and $100,000 in future medical expenses. After the verdict the defense asked the Judge to set aside the part of the verdict regarding the future medical expenses award saying that the Doctor did not testify they would probably be necessary; they just said they might be necessary.  The procedure is called a Motion for JNOV. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in granting the motion, because the evidence supported the award.

Under OCGA § 9-11-50 (b), judges may only grant a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), in cases when, without weighing the evidence’s credibility, there is only one reasonable conclusion as to the proper judgment. In cases where there is conflicting or insufficient evidence, the JNOV is inappropriate. Further, the standard for reviewing a JNOV is “whether the evidence, with all reasonable deductions, demanded a verdict contrary to that returned by the factfinder.” Courts have long held that it is an error to grant a JNOV if there is any evidence to support the jury’s verdict.

In this case, the plaintiff was helping his friend, who was a passenger in his SUV, transport boxes. The plaintiff moved into a left turn lane and stopped for traffic. While waiting to turn, the defendant sped into and rear-ended the plaintiff, sending the plaintiff’s SUV close to 40 yards down the road. The plaintiff and his passenger did not require emergency medical treatment; however, the plaintiff sought pain treatment later in the day. The man’s physician referred him to an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed him with a disc herniation and suggested epidural injections. Additionally, the surgeon recorded that the plaintiff had previous lower back problems, that were treated with a spinal fusion.

The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that the accident resulted in injuries to his lower back. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s evidence of future medical expenses related to his lower back pain was too speculative. The plaintiff presented evidence from the passenger and his surgeon’s disposition. The trial court expressed skepticism about whether the evidence amounted to more than “mere speculation”, and eventually granted the defendant’s motion.

Under Georgia law, future or prospective medical expenses awards are appropriate if they are supported by competent evidence to assist the jury in arriving at a reasonable value for the expenses. However, if the party does not present evidence from which a jury can “ascertain except by mere speculation and conjecture that the plaintiff would ever have future medical expenses, a charge on this subject is erroneous.”

The surgeon testified:

“Q. So before you would actually say, [‘]Yep, I’m recommending
surgery,[‘] number one, he would have to want it; and, number two,
there would be additional tests, and you’d have to have some additional
information about what he’s done so far?
A. Right, some further evaluation. I would agree to that. ”

Here, the surgeon addressed the possibility of surgery; however, he never told the plaintiff that he would need surgery. Further, the surgeon also stated that the plaintiff was still early on his treatment, and if he returned to his office, he might recommend surgery or further treatment. Finally, the plaintiff testified that he wanted compensation for the things he cannot do anymore, and he does not want to have the surgery. Ultimately, the appellate court agreed that the plaintiff failed to present evidence, beyond conjecture and speculation, that he would have future medical expenses related to surgery.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Georgia Accident?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a Georgia car accident, contact Christopher Simon, Attorney at Law. The attorneys at the Simon Law Firm have extensive experience handling all stages of complex personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice lawsuits. Our attorneys understand our clients’ pain and suffering and work to ensure that they receive the compensation they deserve. We have recovered significant amounts of compensation on behalf of our Georgia personal injury clients. To learn more about how we can help you with your case, and to schedule a free consultation, contact our office at 404-259-7635.

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