Reasonable and Necessary Diagnostic Tests Must Be Awarded By Jury in Personal Injury Case

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled that if it is undisputed that the defendant caused circumstances requiring diagnostic tests to rule out injuries, and the undisputed evidence shows that those tests were reasonable and necessary, a trial court cannot affirm a jury verdict of $0 damages.  The trial court either must order a new trial or an additur.

Plaintiff was receiving treatment for chronic lower back pain before the accident.  The physician who treated her before and after the accident testified that he “believed” Plaintiff suffered a back strain or whiplash that caused chronic headaches and aggravated her existing lower back condition.  In addition, the physician testified that medical tests, including MRI and CT scans, were necessary to rule out hemorrhaging or fractures.  Defendant’s medical expert testified that the medical tests were reasonable and necessary, but that Plaintiff’s pain was ultimately due to her preexisting condition.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Plaintiff that there was no material evidence to support the jury’s finding of $0 in damages, as the undisputed evidence established that Plaintiff was at least entitled to the costs of the diagnostic tests.  The Court of Appeals noted that appellate courts lack the authority to award an additur, and therefore remanded for the trial court to order either a new trial or an additur.

The case is  Watson v. Payne, No. M2010-01599-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. April 1, 2011).