George v. Cooper – Liability Admission Only Partial Victory

If a defendant in a personal injury case admits liability, one might think that would be the end of the case, with victory handed to plaintiff.
But that’s only really part of the story. In fact, a defendant may admit liability and the case could still very well go to trial. The reason is because proving fault is only half of what must be proven in an ordinary negligence case. By no means is it an indication that you will receive any compensation.

That’s because there are four elements in most injury cases that must proven. Those elements are:

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Damages

A defendant who concedes liability is admitting he owed plaintiff a duty of care and breached that duty. But he is not conceding that his actions caused plaintiff’s asserted injuries or that those injuries resulted in damages.

The element of causation can refer to either the cause of the accident or the cause of the injury. if a defendant admits liability for the accident, he is only admitting he caused the accident. He is not, however, admitting the accident caused your injuries.

And that’s a big distinction. It’s especially troublesome for a plaintiff who suffered a prior similar or same injury.

This was the scenario in George v. Cooper before the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Plaintiff was involved in a collision with defendant and sued for damages for personal injuries resulting from the crash. Specifically, plaintiff alleged back injuries.

Defendants (driver and vehicle owner) conceded defendant driver had been negligent, but would not stipulate plaintiff’s alleged injuries were caused by that negligence.

The case went to trial. After it was submitted to the jury, but before the verdict, both parties agreed the maximum plaintiff could receive was $250,000 – no matter what the jury said – but that the least he could receive was $30,000, which he had already been given via defendant’s insurer.

Jury found defendant’s negligence had not proximately caused plaintiff’s injuries. Trial court entered a judgment for plaintiff in the amount of $30,000.

Plaintiff appealed and requested a new trial. His motion was denied, so he appealed.

But the appellate court affirmed.

Plaintiff argued the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. However, appellate court noted plaintiff had three prior back injuries prior to the crash. For one of those injuries, doctors recommended surgery, though he declined that. He also reportedly failed to include another auto accident in his medical history prior to meeting with his doctor. Doctor testified plaintiff’s injury symptoms had been largely unchanged before and after the accident.

Based on all of this collectively, appeals court ruled, the trial court didn’t err in denying plaintiff’s request for a new trial.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
George v. Cooper, May 5, 2015, North Carolina Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:
Xarelto Lawsuit Alleges Failure to Disclose Bleeding Risks, June 23, 2015, Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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