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Staley v. Allstate Property Casualty Ins. Co.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

August 6, 2013

Kelli N. Staley, Plaintiff-Appellee/ Cross-Appellant,
v.
Allstate Property Casualty Insurance Company et al., Defendants-Appellees, Patrick W. Staley, Plaintiff-Appellee, Heather N. Kupser, Defendant-Appellant/ Cross-Appellee.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas., C.P.C. No. 09CVC-5-8102

Stephen A. Moyer, for appellee

Kelli N. Staley. Todd J. McKenna, for appellant.

DECISION

BROWN, J.

{¶ 1} Heather N. Kupser, defendant-appellant/cross-appellee, appeals the judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, in which the court sustained the objections of Kupser to the magistrate's decision granting the Civ.R. 50(A) motion of Kelli N. Staley, plaintiff-appellee/cross-appellant ("Staley"), and her husband Patrick W. Staley, plaintiff-appellee (referred to singularly as "Staley"), and denied Kupser's objections to the magistrate's decision granting Staley's Civ.R. 59(A) motion for new trial. Staley has filed a cross-appeal. Kupser also has filed a motion to dismiss Staley's cross-appeal on the basis that the cross-appeal addressed only an interlocutory order, which ultimately was harmless error from Kupser's perspective. This court also issued a show cause order on March 7, 2013 directing the parties to show cause why their appeals should not be dismissed for lack of a final, appealable order. At the outset, we find the trial court's judgment was a final, appealable order, deny Kupser's motion to dismiss, and proceed to address the parties' assignments of error.

{¶ 2} On June 4, 2007, Staley and Kupser were involved in a car accident. Staley's car was "totaled." Staley's underinsured/uninsured motorist ("UM/UIM") insurer, Allstate Insurance, paid Kupser's policy limits of $50, 000 to Staley. Staley underwent surgery for a disc herniation in August 2007 and received an epidural injection to relieve continuing pain in January 2008. In May 2009, Staley and her husband filed a personal injury action against Kupser and Allstate. With regard to Allstate, the complaint alleged that Kupser's automobile insurance had insufficient policy limits to fully compensate Staley and her husband for their injuries, and they sought compensation under the underinsured motorists coverage in the Allstate policy.

{¶ 3} A trial was held before a magistrate. Allstate did not participate in trial and agreed to be bound by the jury verdict. At the close of Staley's case, Staley moved for a directed verdict on the issue of proximate cause, asserting that if the jury were to find Kupser negligent, then the jury would be required to find that Kupser's negligence was the proximate cause of Staley's injuries. The magistrate granted the motion.

{¶ 4} The jury returned a verdict in favor of Staley and awarded her lost wages and medical expenses, but awarded her nothing for pain and suffering. Staley orally moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict ("JNOV"), asserting that the jury erred by failing to award damages for pain and suffering. The magistrate reconvened the jury and instructed them to award damages for pain and suffering in an amount greater than zero dollars. The jury awarded pain and suffering damages in the amount of $1. On September 28, 2010, the trial court entered its judgment.

{¶ 5} Staley moved for a new trial as to damages only, pursuant to Civ.R. 59, arguing the jury's award for pain and suffering was insufficient. On November 3, 2010, the magistrate granted Staley's motion for new trial, concluding that the jury's award for pain and suffering was inadequate because Staley presented uncontroverted evidence that the collision was the proximate cause of Staley's medical bills and lost wages.

{¶ 6} Kupser filed objections to the magistrate's decision, arguing that the magistrate erred by granting a new trial on damages and by granting a directed verdict on the issue of proximate cause. On February 25, 2011, the trial court issued a decision in which it sustained Kupser's objections, finding the magistrate erred by granting Staley's motion for a directed verdict because reasonable minds could have arrived at more than one conclusion as to the proximate cause of Staley's injuries. The trial court ordered the issues of proximate cause and damages be retried. In a March 30, 2011 nunc pro tunc decision, the court clarified that, in addition to sustaining Kupser's objection to the magistrate's Civ.R. 50(A) ruling, it was overruling Kupser's objection to the magistrate's decision granting a new trial on the issue of damages under Civ.R. 59. Kupser appealed, and in Staley v. Allstate Property Cas. Ins. Co., 10th Dist. No. 11AP-279, 2011-Ohio-6171, this court found the trial court's decision was not a final, appealable order because the trial court failed to adopt, modify or reject the magistrate's decision, in whole or in part, and the decision did not include any language indicating it was a judgment.

{¶ 7} Upon remand, the trial court issued a new judgment entry granting a new trial "under Civil Rule 59(A)(6) as to damages" and "under Civil Rule 50(A) as to the proximate cause of Plaintiffs injuries and medical bills." The entry also included Civ.R. 54(B) language indicating that there was no just reason for delay. Kupser and Staley appeal the judgment of the trial court. Kupser asserts the following assignments of error:

1. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN GRANTING A NEW TRIAL, WHERE THERE WAS COMPETENT, CREDIBLE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE JURY'S VERDICT.
2. GRANTING A DIRECTED VERDICT ON PROXIMATE CAUSE IN PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE'S FAVOR, WAS HARMLESS TO PLAINTIFF, AS IT FAVORED THE PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE. APPELLANT-DEFENDANT DID NOT OBJECT TO PAYING THE FINAL VERDICT AS RENDERED, AND IS MOOT.
3. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN GRANTING A NEW TRIAL ON DAMAGES ONLY, WHEN LIABLITY ...

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