On January 19, 2017 a Lamar County jury rendered a $150,000 verdict in Sullivan v. Tate and Miss. Farm Bureau Casualty Ins. Co.

Plaintiff, Ms. Sullivan, and Defendant, Ms. Tate, were involved in a low-impact collision at the intersection of Oak Grove Road and Lincoln Road on January 15, 2013.  Ms. Sullivan filed suit on January 14, 2016 against the tortfeasor, Ms. Tate, and Ms. Sullivan’s under-insured motorist carrier, Farm Bureau.

Farm Bureau asserted a subrogation cross-claim against Tate and defended Sullivan’s under-insured motorist claim.

Ms. Sullivan pursued claims for soft tissue injuries to her neck and back as well as emotional distress.  At trial, testimony revealed Ms. Sullivan’s airbag did not deploy and her automobile had relatively minor damage and was not totaled, unlike Defendant Tate’s vehicle.

The plaintiff presented evidence that Ms. Sullivan incurred $5,485.00 in past expenses for physical therapy and doctor office visits, past prescription expenses totaling $4,235.46, past expenses for massages totaling $904.50, past mileage to/from providers totaling $281.85, lost wages of $1,360 as well as other past miscellaneous expenses and future medical expenses.

The Defendants disputed the nature, degree and proximate cause of Ms. Sullivan’s injuries, contested whether past and future expenses were/are necessary and reasonable and contested Ms. Sullivan’s claimed damages.

Ms. Sullivan obtained a directed verdict on liability following Tate not presenting sufficient evidence to dispute the negligence of Tate when she failed to yield the right-of-way to Sullivan while attempting to turn left in front of Ms. Sullivan.  Similarly, Farm Bureau obtained a directed verdict as to liability on its subrogation cross-claim against Ms. Tate for the same reasons.

Grant Bennett of Hattiesburg represented the plaintiff. Vick Smith represented Tate. Tucker Mitchell and Randy Day represented Farm Bureau.

Circuit Judge Tony Mozingo presided.

My Take:

In today’s litigation climate, a $125,000 verdict with a little over $12,000 in specials would be a home run in any venue in the state. In Lamar County, it’s a World Series winning grand slam home run in the bottom of the 12th inning.

Lamar County rivals Rankin County as having the most conservative juries in the state.

A few more verdicts like that and Trial Guides will have Grant Bennett writing books on trying cases to conservative juries.