The bad economy apparently made no difference to a Jackson County jury that awarded a woman $2.5 million late last week.
The award to Adrienne Garrison Wayman, of Grain Valley, compensates her for injuries she suffered in a 2005 accident with an executive of HealthSouth Corp., a Clayton-based health care company.
Wayman, then 23, was traveling south on Missouri Highway 7 when Kyle L. Farley rear-ended her, pushing her vehicle into the car in front of her. Farley is vice president of operations for HeathSouth and was acting in the scope of his employment when the accident occurred, the parties agreed.
Wayman suffered back, hip and neck injuries, according to the plaintiffs’ petition. Nine months after the collision she underwent a cervical fusion of a herniated disk, said her attorney, Grant L. Davis, of Davis Bethune & Jones.
Farley was dropped from the suit on Jan. 26, just before the case went to trial in Independence before Judge Michael Manners. The jury returned its verdict Jan. 30.
Davis said he’s heard from some plaintiffs’ lawyers that the size of the award will help their cases as well. Davis said, in a case where a young woman had injuries with lifelong consequences, the outcome shouldn’t be surprising.
“Over the last 20 years, there’s been such a move toward alternative dispute resolution. It’s almost a religion,” Davis said. “Law students are taught in law school that ADR is good. And the truth of the matter is, sometimes it’s better for your client to have a jury trial.”
Davis also said the trial tested whether the economic downturn would cause jurors to change the amount they awarded. He noted that the question was asked during voir dire and that most of the prospective jurors said it would not.
“I would say this is a case that indicates it’s not going to make them go lower,” he said.
HealthSouth was defended by Jim Foland and Kyle Roehler, of Foland Wickens Eisfelder Roper & Hofer.
Roehler declined to comment directly on the outcome of the case, saying the defense was still exploring its options. A request for remittitur of the verdict is possible, although Roehler said no decision had been made.