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Holden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. This is a slip and fall case where plaintiff appealed a Scotts Bluff County District Court (Nebraska) decision awarding plaintiff damages in the amount of $3,600. The jury found defendant to be 60 percent negligent and plaintiff 40 percent negligent and awarded damages in the amount of $ 6,000.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. “An award of damages may be set aside as excessive or inadequate when, and not unless, it is so excessive or inadequate as to be the result of passion, prejudice, mistake, or some other means not apparent in the record. If an award of damages shocks the conscience, it necessarily follows that the award was the result of passion, prejudice, mistake, or some other means not apparent in the record.”

    Facts. Plaintiff fell after stepping in a hole in Wal-mart Store parking lot. At trial, plaintiff offered evidence of other occasions where people fell due to the condition of the pavement in other Wal-mart parking lots. Based on an analysis of probative value versus potential for prejudice, the trial court excluded this evidence. Plaintiff appealed that judgment, maintaining that the court erred in refusing to allow the evidence in question and thus the amount of damages awarded was inadequate. The higher court affirmed the original judgment, concluding that plaintiff failed to show how the other incidents were sufficiently similar to her fall and that the damages awarded by jury were proper. Plaintiff’s putative evidence involved accidents occurring at different locations, under disparate circumstances.

    Issue. At issue is whether the damages awarded were excessive due to mistake by jury.

    Held. A jury is entitled to determine what portion of a claimed injury was proximately caused by the incident and what portion of the medical bills was reasonably required. Thus, the lower court’s ruling was affirmed.

    Discussion. The computation of damages rests on the plaintiff’s meeting the burden of proof with respect to proximate cause and proportionality. Further, as the trier of fact a jury may reach multiple conclusions with respect to damages, including lost wages or earning capacity, medical and related expenses, and pain and suffering.


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