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Tort/Negligence — Auto Accident – Proximate Cause – Stroke – Damages – Knee Injury

Tort/Negligence — Auto Accident – Proximate Cause – Stroke – Damages – Knee Injury

Fields v. Fields (Lawyers Weekly No. 15-16-0781, 22 pp.) (Martha Geer, J.) Appealed from New Hanover County Superior Court (Phyllis Gorham, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.

Holding: In a letter, plaintiff’s decedent’s doctor said that “the post-traumatic stress brought on by the accident contributed to his Acute Cerebrovascular accident”; however, in his deposition, the doctor said only that the accident possibly contributed to the decedent’s stroke. The doctor’s deposition is replete with statements amounting to nothing more than that the accident “could” have caused the decedent’s stroke, which is insufficient to establish that the accident was a probable cause of the stroke.

We affirm partial summary judgment for defendant on the issue of the proximate cause of the decedent’s stroke. We vacate the award of damages and remand for a new trial on the issue of damages.

Plaintiff presented evidence that her decedent’s left knee was injured in the accident with defendant (who is unrelated to plaintiff and the decedent), and that after the accident he had become unsteady when walking or standing. The decedent’s doctor testified that he could “safely say” that the accident “had something to do with [the decedent’s] knee pain.” The evidence would have supported a determination that the decedent’s knee injury was the proximate result of the accident.

Plaintiff also presented evidence of the loss of use of her decedent’s left leg: he limped; someone had to stabilize him as he read from the pulpit because he appeared unsteady on his feet; he was unable to manage stairs; after his stroke – which plaintiff testified affected only the decedent’s right side – he was unable to walk because he had no strength in his left leg. Plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to allow the jury to find that the decedent suffered at least a partial loss of use of his left leg as a result of the accident. The trial court should have instructed the jury on damages from the loss of use of the decedent’s left leg.

Affirmed in part; new trial in part.


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