A Richland County jury last week took an hour to award a Florida couple $600,000 in actual damages for injuries suffered in a rear-ender traffic accident at an intersection just off I-77 in Columbia.
The trial, before Judge Casey Manning at the Richland County courthouse, lasted 21/2 days.
According to a complaint in the case, plaintiffs Leonard Carey and Carol Bennett were in their four-door sedan at a complete stop on Aug. 2, 2010, at I-77 and Two Notch Road when a Dyer Inc. van “rear-ended and collided” into it.
Evidence indicated the van was going about 15 mph when the collision happened.
Exhibits presented to the jury showed Carey, the driver, suffered some $27,000 in medical bills, and Bennett, the passenger, had some $18,000 in medical expenses.
At the time of the accident, both occupants claimed their necks were injured in the collision, according to evidence, and Bennett was treated at the emergency room of a Columbia hospital.
The jury also saw MRIs that showed Carey and Bennett suffered disc injuries to their necks, according to evidence. Both received several months of chiropractic care, physical therapy and pain injections.
The jury awarded Bennett $400,000; Carey, $200,000.
“This verdict fairly compensates my clients for their past and future medical expenses, along with pain and suffering from their injuries,” said Columbia attorney Robert Goings, who represented Carey and Bennett.
But Columbia attorney Darby Plexico III, who represented Dyer Inc., argued in an answer to the complaint that “this collision was so minor and inconsequential that no reasonable or prudent person could have been injured in this accident and therefore, the plaintiff cannot recover from the defendants in any sum whatsoever.”
Plexico declined to say whether he would appeal the verdict.
Goings, who acknowledged that not much damage was done to his clients’ car, said they only went to trial as a last resort.
"We were forced to try this case because the other side did not believe that someone can get hurt in a rear-end collision that does not result in significant property damage,” Goings said.