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A Nelson County resident was recently granted $319,048 following a jury verdict in an underinsured motorist claim. The judgment to cover medical expenses and pain and suffering was the largest civil court jury verdict amount awarded in at least the last 10 years in the county.
According to data provided by Jury Verdict Publications Shannon Ragland, who has covered civil cases throughout Kentucky in “The Kentucky Trial Court Review” since 1997, only 16 civil cases in Nelson County have led to a jury trial. The second highest verdict awarded was $150,000 in 2000.
On June 2, 2004, while Joseph E. Downs, then 72, and his wife were in Elizabethtown, they were rear-ended after slowing down while another vehicle turned.
It was a moderate accident, and Downs was able to drive his damaged vehicle, which was totaled, home.
Downs immediately had pain in his upper back and neck but did not seek immediate medical treatment. The next day, Downs sought medical attention at Flaget Memorial Hospital and was referred to Dr. Gregory Nazar, a neurosurgeon in Louisville.
According to a report by Dr. Nazar in Downs’s file, the accident caused him to have chronic neck pain.
Downs sought an underinsured motorist claim from his car insurance carrier State Farm Insurance Company. The limits of his coverage was $300,000. Downs’ medical bills totaled $19,048; He claimed $600,000 for pain and suffering. He consulted two local attorneys —Bill Robinson in Springfield and Joe Mattingly in Lebanon.
“You usually don’t see a lawsuit being filed right away,” Robinson said. “It’s not the first thing people think about when they get injured.”
In addition to maintaining a full-time personal injury practice, Robinson is the City Attorney in Springfield and Mattingly is the County Attorney in Marion County. Robinson said normally in cases similar to Downs’, the case is resolved without a necessity for a jury trial but Downs’ case required a jury.
“We were grateful to the jury in Nelson County for recognizing this had a significant negative impact of Mr. Downs,” Robinson said. “We felt in this instance, it was just.”
The jury trial lasted two days and Robinson and Mattingly felt the jury did a great job.
“They were looking objectively at all the evidence presented,” Mattingly said. “They took their role very, very seriously.”
Downs did not seek future medical expenses or lost wages in the civil suit.