Recently, the Court of Appeals of the State of New Mexico upheld a jury’s verdict and the denial of a defense motion for a new trial or a remittitur of the damages awarded by the jury. The appellate court declined to use mathematic ratios as the basis for reversing a jury award, and also affirmed the award to the plaintiffs of prejudgment interest.
The trial underlying the appellate ruling occurred following a tragic accident on the interstate highway between Las Cruces and Deming, New Mexico. A FedEx combination tractor-trailer vehicle driven at a speed of 65 miles an hour struck a small pickup truck that was stopped or barely moving. There were multiple fatalities. The driver of the tractor-trailer was killed. The driver of the pickup truck was also killed together with her four year old daughter; that driver’s nineteen month old son was seriously injured.
The husband of the woman driving the pickup truck that was struck sued individually, and as personal representative for his daughter and next friend for his son. He also asserted claims for personal injury and wrongful death. The father of the woman driving the pickup truck sued, as her personal representative, for wrongful death. Together with his wife he also asserted claims via intervention for loss of consortium resulting from the death of their daughter. FedEx stipulated prior to trial that it would pay for damages attributable to FedEx and the other named defendants. Following the trial, the jury awarded compensatory damages in excess of $165 million in favor of the plaintiffs. The jury awarded no punitive damages.