United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
CHRISTOPHER A. CURTIS and CHRISTINA CURTIS, Plaintiffs,
RICHARD PRETORIUS, M.D., Defendant. and HUMANA HEALTH PLAN, INC., Intervening Plaintiff,
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F' van Tatenhove United States District Judge
an eight-day trial, a jury concluded that Dr. Richard
Pretorius failed to comply with his duty to exercise the
degree of care and skill which is ordinarily expected of a
reasonably competent physician under the circumstances
presented by this case. Additionally, the Jury determined
that Dr. Pretorius's failure to comply with his duty was
a substantial factor in causing the damages alleged by
Plaintiffs. However, the Jury ultimately found Plaintiffs
suffered no past or future physical pain and suffering or
consortium, and awarded Plaintiffs $13, 000 in reasonable
medical expenses. Plainitffs now move the Court for a new
trial on damages arguing that the award of damages is not
reasonably related to the evidence presented at trial. For
the reasons set forth below, the Court will
DENY Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial on
medical malpractice case was initially filed on September 1,
2015, in the Owen County, Kentucky, Circuit Court. [R. 1-1.]
On September 28, 2015, Defendant removed this case to the
Eastern District of Kentucky on the basis of diversity of
citizenship. [R. 1.] The case revolved around whether Dr.
Pretorius was negligent in caring for Christopher Curtis in
September 2014, when Curtis presented at New Horizons Medical
Center with complaints of an abscess on his buttocks. [R.
case progressed to a jury trial, which began on September 12,
2017. [See R. 110.] On September 22, 2017, the Jury
returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Plaintiffs
Christopher Curtis and Christina Curtis, finding that
Defendant Richard Pretorius, M.D. breached his duty and fell
below the standard of care when treating Plaintiff
Christopher Curtis on September 12, 2014, at New Horizons
Medical Center in Owenton, Kentucky. [See R. 124.]
The Jury determined that Dr. Pretorius's breach was a
substantial factor in causing Plaintiff Christopher
Curtis's injuries. [Id] The Jury awarded
Plaintiff Christopher Curtis damages in the amount of $13,
000 for reasonable medical expenses, but did not award
damages for past or future pain and suffering or loss of
consortium as to Plaintiff Christina Curtis. [Id.]
This Court entered a Final Judgment on October 12, 2017.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide, in relevant part,
that "[t]he court, may on motion, grant a new trial on
all or some of the issues . . . after a jury trial, for any
reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in
an action at law in federal court." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a).
The United States Supreme Court has held that trial courts
have great authority and discretion under Rule 59(a) to grant
new trials. See Gasperini v. Ctr.for the Humanities,
Inc., 518 U.S. 415, 433 (1996). The Sixth Circuit has
acknowledged, "[t]he trial judge in the federal system
has . . . discretion to grant a new trial if the verdict
appears to [the judge] to be against the weight of the
evidence." Bell v. Johnson, 404 F.3d 997, 1002
(6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Byrd v. Blue Ridge Rural Elec.
Coop., Inc., 356 U.S. 525, 548 (1958)).
the Plaintiffs challenge the damages award arguing it is
insufficient and not reasonable in light of the evidence
presented at trial. [See generally R. 128-1.]
The scope of review of a damage award is extremely narrow. A
trial court may not grant a new trial on the ground of
insufficient damages unless the jury verdict is one that
could not reasonably have been reached. The remedy of a new
trial for inadequate damages is appropriate only where the
evidence indicates that the jury awarded damages in an amount
substantially less than unquestionably proved by the
plaintiffs uncontradicted and undisputed evidence. Thus, if
the verdict is supported by some competent, credible
evidence, a trial court will be deemed not to have abused its
discretion in denying the motion.
Bell, 404 F.3d at 1003 (quoting Walker v.
Bain, 257 F.3d 660, 674 (6th Cir. 2001)).
assert that they presented into evidence medical bills
establishing "that Dr. Pretorius's negligence
resulted in Christopher Curtis incurring medical expenses in
excess of $191, 000." [R. 128-1 at 2.] Plaintiffs also
claim the "uncontroverted testimony" supports an
award of pain and suffering. [Id. at 3.] According
to Plaintiffs, Christopher Curtis's colostomy procedure,
and subsequent reversal, were a direct result of Dr.
Pretorius's negligence, and, consequently, the jury
should have awarded pain and suffering damages in relation to
those procedures and the resulting need for medical care.
[Id. at 4-6.] Similarly, Plaintiffs contend they are
entitled to an award of consortium for Plaintiff Christina
Curtis. [Id. at 10.] Plaintiffs contend Dr.
Pretorius presented no evidence on damages and, instead,
"defended this action on the basis he met the standard
of care in his evaluation and treatment of Mr. Curtis. . .
." [Id. at 7.] The essence of Plaintiffs
argument is that the evidence they presented, regarding
damages, was uncontroverted; therefore, the Jury could not
have reasonably awarded $13, 000 in medical expenses, $0 in
past and future pain and suffering, and $0 in consortium
damages for Plaintiff Christina Curtis.
responds by claiming they did, in fact, contest the medical
expenses, even though they did not do a line-by-line
analysis. [SeeR. 132.] Defendant cited the record on
several points of controverted evidence, including where
Plaintiffs' expert witness's testimony could have
lead a reasonable jury to discount the damages claimed by
Plaintiffs. [See Id. at 4.] On cross-examination,
Plaintiffs expert, Dr. MacArthur, testified: (1) Christopher
Curtis would have had to undergo an open surgical procedure
regardless of whether Dr. Pretorius provided Mr. Curtis with
antibiotics on September 12, 2014, (2) Mr. Curtis "would
require hospitalization afterward," and (3) Dr.
MacArthur could not exclude, with a hundred percent
certainty, that Mr. Curtis would have needed a colostomy even
as early as September 12, 2014. [R. 132 at 4. See
also R. 129 at 79.] Further, Defendant's experts
testified that Mr. Curtis "would have undergone a
debridement procedure and a colostomy and subsequent reversal
procedures even if antibiotics had been prescribed by Dr.
Pretorius on September 12, 2014." [R. 132 at 5; R. 130
Court believes the Jury's award of damages were
reasonable in light of the evidence. It certainly is true
that Dr. Pretorius was found to have fell below the standard
of care when treating Mr. Curtis, and that his failure was a
substantial factor in causing Mr. Curtis's injuries, but
the jury did not determine that Dr. Pretorius's
negligence was the only factor. The evidence
presented on damages, while not explicit as to each medical
expense, was challenged by Defendant. Plaintiffs had the
burden of proving damages. And while the Plaintiffs certainly
put on evidence as to damages, Defendants also put on
evidence to dispute that evidence. The Jury was free to
accept, discount, or disregard Plaintiffs' damages
evidence; it chose to drastically discount it. That decision,
and the $13, 000 verdict, is supported by competent and
Court also finds that it was not inconsistent for the Jury to
award damages on medical expenses, but award $0 for pain and
suffering. In Kentucky, a jury is not mandated to award pain
and suffering in every case in which it awards medical
expenses. See Bayless v. Boyer,180 S.W.3d 439 (Ky.
2005); Miller v. Swift,42 S.W.3d 599 (Ky. 2001).
Here, it is necessary for the Court to determine whether the
Jury's award of $0 in pain and suffering was inadequate
as a matter of law. "A jury is not bound to believe a
plaintiff or her doctors." Bledsaw v. Dennis,197 S.W.3d 115, 118 (Ky. 2006). It is apparent in this case
that the jury did not believe the entirety of Plaintiffs'
evidence. The jury verdict in this case found Dr.
Pretorius's negligence to be a substantial factor-but not
necessarily the only factor- in causing Mr. Curtis's