Torts – discovery/admissibility of SSD application, Financial hardship exception to collateral source rule, aggravation of pre-existing condition instructions, judgment NOV denial affirmed: Peters v. Wooten (COA 7/17/2009)

Peters v. Wooten
2007-CA-001955 07/17/2009 2009 WL 2059085

Opinion by Judge Moore; Judge Acree and Senior Judge Knopf concurred.

The Court affirmed a verdict and judgment for the defense after a jury trial in a personal injury case arising from an automobile accident. The Court first held that the trial court erred in ordering discovery of appellants’ Social Security disability application. The Court then held that, although the error occurred, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in overruling appellant’s objection to the evidence at trial when the records were used only to point out inconsistencies in appellant’s prior testimony regarding his work history and did not reference appellant’s attempt to collect benefits or disclose the name of the agency. The Court next adopted the “financial hardship” exception to the collateral source rule and held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing appellee’s attorney to question appellant regarding collateral source benefits when appellant’s wife opened the door by testifying that appellant did not seek medical treatment due to financial hardship. The Court also held that the probative value of not leaving the impression with the jury that appellant lacked monetary means to seek medical treatment outweighed any prejudice produced by the evidence. The Court next held that the trial court did not err in refusing to give a jury instruction allowing an award of damages resulting from the aggravation of a pre-existing injury when the court provided a broad instruction consistent with case law. The Court finally held that the trial court did not err in denying appellant’s motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict as

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appellant’s testimony was subject to a credibility determination by the jury and there was nothing to suggest the verdict was palpably or flagrantly against the evidence such that it indicated the jury reached the verdict as a result of passion or prejudice.

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