A witness, whether expert or lay, may provide an opinion on the ultimate issue in a case. The trier of fact is not required to accept the expert's conclusion, and therefore such testimony cannot be said to usurp the province of the jury. Because the rule against opinions on the ultimate issue no longer has any vitality, the court believes that its corollary, which would require the use of neutral figures in presenting the jury with testimony about present cash values, has similarly lost its foundation. Deprived of its theoretical footing, the "neutral figure" requirement should no longer be followed.
The plaintiffs brought an action for damages for collision injuries they sustained due to the negligence of defendant truck driver. The jury returned verdicts for the plaintiffs in the amounts of $ 22,358,814 and $ 102,215, respectively. It appears that the award was based on the testimony of the car driver’s economist who used “neutral” figures in computing the plaintiff’s future economic losses. The defendants questioned the damages on appeal for being excessive.
Were the damages awarded excessive?
The court held that the car driver's economist was not required to use "neutral" figures-amounts having no relation to the damages alleged by the parties-in explaining the concept of present cash value to the jury. The economist's methodology was reasonable because he did not make a prediction of future growth and inflation rates, he was consistent in his treatment of inflation, and he did not adopt a method that would under or over compensate the car driver. The court reduced the differential between the jury's award for the car driver's future medical expenses and the higher figure presented in the testimony because only a portion of the difference was allowed for expenses that the car driver was likely to incur, but that were not included in the calculations. The court found that the car passenger's award for pain and suffering was excessive and reduced it. The plain language of the lease agreement granted the truck lessor the contractual right to seek indemnity from the truck driver's employer for the amount in excess of the insurance policy provided under the agreement. The truck lessor was entitled to indemnity from the truck driver under an implied indemnity theory.