South Carolina Court Affirms $300,000 Jury Verdict in Car Accident Case Against Sheriff’s Department

In a South Carolina automobile accident case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant was negligent – that is, that the defendant’s failure to act in a reasonably prudent manner resulted in damages to the plaintiff.

Once this has been done, the defendant may seek to reduce the jury’s verdict by pointing the finger back at the plaintiff, accusing him or her of also being negligent in causing the accident. It is ultimately up to the jury to decide which side to believe and how much money to award the plaintiff if it finds in his or her favor.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case (unreported), the plaintiff was a woman who was struck by a vehicle as she walked alongside the road. She filed suit against the defendant sheriff department and its employee (who was driving the vehicle that struck her), seeking compensation for her injuries. The Marion County Circuit Court dismissed the employee from the case after finding that he was acting within the course and scope of his official duties as a reserve officer with the defendant sheriff’s department at the time of the accident.

The case proceeded to a trial in front of a jury. The jury found that the defendant was 65% negligent and that the plaintiff was 35% negligent. After applying the statutory cap of the South Carolina Tort Claims Act, the court entered judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $300,000. The defendant appealed.

Outcome of the Appeal

The appellate court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in allowing the plaintiff’s sister to testify as to the plaintiff’s medical expenses, insomuch as the plaintiff had been diagnosed with a mental illness and had been cared for by her sister for over 20 years. The court further found no error with respect to the lower tribunal’s refusal to admit certain eyewitness testimony to the effect that the witness had seen the plaintiff walking in the road several minutes prior to the accident. Unlike a criminal case in which such a witness’s statement might have been relevant to the defendant’s mental state or intoxication, the testimony preferred here did not tend to make it more or less probably that the plaintiff was in the road when she was struck by the defendant’s employee.

The court of appeals likewise found no error with respect to the trial court’s decision to ask voir dire questions itself rather than allow the defendant’s attorney to do so. With respect to the defendant’s allegations of improprieties in the plaintiff’s attorney’s closing argument, the court held that the argument did not exceed the scope of the evidence that was presented at trial.

Consult a Seasoned South Carolina Car Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should talk to a lawyer about holding the responsible party liable for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To schedule an appointment to discuss your case with a knowledgeable South Carolina car crash attorney, call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices today at 864-582-5118. We have offices in Spartanburg and Greenville, from which we handle negligence claims throughout the state.

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