Shriver v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Arguments that the jury wrongly awarded economic damages that were twice the amount of the plaintiff's past medical expenses may be insufficient to obtain a collateral source reduction. The plaintiff, Lori Shriver, filed a personal-injury suit against Wal-Mart. During closing argument, Shriver's counsel asked the jury to double Shriver's past medical expenses, to account for Shriver's future medical expenses. The jury awarded economic damages of $424,000 for past and future medical expenses. The jury also awarded non-economic damages, for pain and suffering, of $230,000. Wal-Mart moved for collateral source reductions and argued that the jury should not have awarded double the amount of Shriver's past medical expenses. Shriver objected that the jury's general verdict did not differentiate between past and future medical expenses. Wal-Mart possessed the burden to prove that the verdict included items of damages for which the plaintiff received a collateral source benefit. The jury was allowed to accept or to reject counsel's arguments about the costs of future medical expenses. "In the absence of jury interrogatories," wrote the court, it was unable to "speculate how the jury decided to allocate between past medical bills and future medical bills and/or medication when it rendered its decision regarding economic damages." Wal-Mart did not prove the verdict included damages for which the plaintiff received a collateral source benefit, and the court denied the motion for a collateral source reduction.