January 19, 2021

In a Georgia medical malpractice case that was remanded to the trial court because the jury awarded the plaintiff damages for her medical expenses but failed to award any amount for her pain and suffering, the trial court ordered a new trial, stating “the verdict rendered by the jury in this matter is contradictory both because Shawn Evans’s consortium claim is derivative of Janice Evans’s compensatory claims and because the jury’s failure to award pain and suffering is inconsistent with its award for part medical expenses.”

Inconsistent Verdict vs. Inadequate Verdict

The Georgia Supreme Court had stated in the same case: “The Evanses have expended considerable effort in the lower courts and in this Court asserting that the verdict rendered in this case is inconsistent because it does not comply with the general rule that a damages award for medical expenses necessarily requires damages for pain and suffering … But inconsistency in a verdict is not the same as inadequacy of a verdict, and the consequences differ for each. In particular, under our precedent, a contradictory verdict is entirely void and requires a new trial, not additur or a retrial on damages alone.”

The plaintiffs had argued in the present case that by awarding the amount the plaintiffs had requested for Janice Evans’s past medical expenses but zero damages for her future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and past and future pain and suffering, the jury’s verdict was self-contradictory. The plaintiff cited the general rule that a damages award for medical expenses necessarily requires damages for pain and suffering. The defendant argued that an award of damages for pain and suffering is not necessarily required, even when bodily injury and medical expenses are proven.

The trial court stated in its order for a new trial: “The Court of Appeals specifically addressed the cases cited by Defendant in Evans I, observing that those cases “predate Georgia’s present apportionment statute, OCGA § 51-12-33, which was enacted in 2005 and supplanted Georgia’s common law comparative negligence regime with a statutory system of ‘assigning responsibility for an injury to a plaintiff according to his “fault” under subsections (a) and (g) of the apportionment statute.’ Evans v. Rockdale Hosp. LLC, 345 Ga. App. 511, 520 (2018). These cases are, in fact, distinguishable because the separate procedure under the apportionment statute precluded the jury in this case from making the reductions supposed by the courts in those earlier analyses.”

With regard to the plaintiffs’ loss of consortium claim, the trial court stated in its order for a new trial: “There is a line of cases from [the Court of Appeals] in which the husband and wife combine their actions for trial and the spouse who was involved in the accident recovers damages from the defendant but the other spouse does not recover anything, or recovers only part of the proved damages. This court has reversed the judgment against the nonrecovering party because of “inconsistent verdicts from the same jury.””


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