Law School Case Brief
Erickson v. Hammermeister - 458 N.W.2d 172 (Minn. Ct. App. 1990)
There are two tests to determine the adequacy of additur. The first test is whether the amount of the recovery, when combined with the additur, remains less than the amount of the proven special damages. The second test is whether the verdict approaches what may be termed a nominal award.
On June 22, 1985, four-year-old C.E. was bitten by a German Shepherd while attending a backyard picnic at respondent Delano Hammermeister's house. Due to the injury caused by the bite, C.E. would need to undergo a comprehensive orthodontic treatment upon becoming a teenager. Her past and future medical and dental expenses would amount to $ 9,732.13. C.E.'s parents, appellants David and Beverly Erickson, commenced a personal injury action in Mennesota state court against Hammermeister, the dog's owner, under a theory of absolute liability. Minn. Stat. § 347.22 (1984). The sole issue of damages was tried to a jury. The jury found that C.E. did not provoke the dog and awarded the Ericksons $ 8752.13 for past and future medical and dental expenses and $ 40 for past and future pain and suffering. The Ericksons filed a motion for additur or a new trial or a Schwartz hearing. The trial court granted a new trial on the issue of damages unless Hammermeister consented to additur in the amount of $ 3750 for pain and suffering. Hammermeister accepted the additur. The Ericksons appealed, contending that the amount of additur was inadequate as a matter of law.
Was the amount of additur adequate?
The court affirmed the trial court's judgment. According to the Court, there was no fixed standard by which damages for injuries could be measured. The court averred that an award would not be overturned because an appellate court might have allowed a more generous recovery or because another jury might return a larger verdict. The court posited that the question of whether damages were adequate was addressed in the first instance to the discretion of the trial court. In the case at bar, the court found that the amount of additur awarded by the trial court was within the trial court's discretion and was not so manifestly and palpably contrary to the evidence as to constitute an abuse of discretion.
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