Tremper v. State
"The ultimate test which must be applied to the verdict by the trial court is whether . . . the size of the verdict so shocks the sense of justice as to compel the conclusion that the jury was influenced by partiality, prejudice, mistake or corruption," pursuant to the Connecticut Supreme Court's 2011 decision, Saleh v. Ribeiro Trucking. Allegedly, a state worker observed debris on Interstate 95. Activating warning lights, he pulled onto the right shoulder, then backed into and blocked the travel lane. A jury awarded the plaintiff, who was injured in a collision with the worker's truck, $2.72 million. The jury found the state 30 percent and another defendant 70 percent responsible. The state moved to set aside the verdict. The jury reasonably could have found that medical expenses were $151,694. Because the plaintiff refused additional surgery, the court concluded that $225,000 in economic damages was excessive. The court awarded a remittitur of $73,305. The state also argued that $2.5 million in non-economic damages, for pain and suffering, combined with a $332,913 settlement from a third party, was excessive. The plaintiff underwent four surgical procedures. He progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to crutches and to a cane. He walks with a limp. He suffers severe arthritis. He was rated with a permanent partial disability of 23 percent. He is unable to return to work as a landscaper. The jury's award failed to shock the court's conscience. The court denied the motion for a remittitur of non-economic damages. The court also rejected the state's claim that jury instructions on the phrase "when operating a motor vehicle" in Connecticut General Statutes §52-556 were incorrect. The state argued that if the truck was used as a warning device, to slow traffic, the employee was not "operating" the truck. The state's interpretation, wrote the court, would make the statute meaningless. It was the jury's prerogative to decide whether the truck was used as a warning device. The jury reasonably could have found that the state worker "operated" the truck. The court denied the state's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.