Jury awards more than $120,000 in Edwardsville rear-end re-trial

Amelia Flood May 20, 2009, 2:00pm


Although it took nearly two days to get under way, the re-trial of a 2004 Edwardsville negligence lawsuit wrapped up in a day and a half as a Madison County jury awarded the plaintiff more than $120,000 in damages.

Deliberating only on the question of damages, it took jurors an hour and a half to reach a verdict Wednesday night.

Plaintiff Walter Spearman and his lawyers, Rodney Caffey and Dan Cohen, declined to comment.

Spearman sued Michael Sunley in 2004 for two herniated discs he suffered when Sunley rear-ended him. The original jury awarded Spearman about $62,000 for his past medical bills. It did not award damages for pain, suffering, disfigurement or future medical costs.

Spearman's then attorney moved for a new trial. The motion was denied by then-Madison Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron. Spearman appealed and the appellate court ordered a new trial.

Sunley's attorney Stephen Mudge spoke on behalf of his client.

"It's a bit more than what I expected," Mudge said of the verdict. "But, I'm satisfied in light of how the trial went."

The jury on Wednesday awarded Spearman $62,607.47 for his past medical bills.

They also included $20,000 for future medical bills. Spearman gained $5,000 for his future pain and suffering, $5,000 for his past lost of a normal life, and $15,000 for his future loss of a normal life. The remainder was made up of sums for his past pain and suffering and disfigurement caused by surgery related to the injuries.

Spearman was awarded a total of $124,807.47.

Wednesday's verdict closed the second time the case went to trial. The appellate court ruled the original jury was inconsistent in awarding Spearman only his past medical bills.

Testimony began Tuesday and finished with closing arguments Wednesday afternoon.

In his opening, Caffey had called the case one of "reality versus fantasy," a statement which Mudge took issue with in his closing. He asked jurors for a "reality verdict" and called attention to discrepancies between Spearman's testimony and his deposition.

"Fantasy is what you see when you go see a Star Trek movie," Mudge said.

In his response, Cohen pointed to the amount paid to defense experts and called into question Mudge's statements attacking Spearman's credibility. He said Mudge was an actor playing a part.

"It's not a movie or a show for Mr. Spearman," Cohen said in his closing.

Madison Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth presided.

The case is Madison case number 04-L-007.

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