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Follett v. Jones - 252 Ark. 950, 481 S.W.2d 713 (1972)

Rule:

Where there is no evidence as to decedent's normal life span or otherwise from which the jury can determine the relative time span an accident shortened decedent's life, its award is held to be without a reasonable basis and is speculative.

Facts:

The deceased, Chauncy G. Jones, was driving a pick-up truck when a collision occurred between it and a car driven by Frank Follett. Jones sustained three non-displaced broken ribs, contusions, abrasions, and a blow to his head as a result of the accident. He was taken to a hospital where he died 17 days later. Prior to the date of the accident, Jones had regularly worked at his job, and, also, on his farm. However, it is undisputed that on the date of the accident, unbeknownst to the deceased, he had terminal lung cancer. The cancerous condition was discovered from the x-rays taken to determine the extent of the injuries to his chest. An autopsy report listed the cancer as the cause of death. Two doctors testified that the death was a result of "a combination" of the injuries and the cancer and that the injuries hastened his death. A jury found, as alleged by appellees, that appellant Follett was negligent in causing the accident and that appellant's negligence was the proximate cause of Jones' death. The jury awarded $ 3,867.89 damages to Mrs. Jones as administratrix and $ 8,000.00 to her individually. Damages were disallowed to appellee, Harold Jones, decedent's son. Follett appealed.

Issue:

Was the jury’s award proper?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court held that the evidence was sufficient to present a question of fact for a jury's determination as the whether the accident proximately caused the death. The court held that although the evidence was sufficient to present a jury question as to proximate causation, there was no evidence as to decedent's normal life span or otherwise from which the jury could determine the relative time span that the accident "shortened" deceased's life. In reversing, the court held that in the absence of such evidence, the jury's award was without a reasonable basis and was speculative, requiring a remand.

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