A Day County jury returned a $300,000 verdict for a local farmer for back injuries arising from a 1999 car accident. At that time, it was the largest verdict ever returned in Day County, and it reaffirms that local juries understand what a back injury means in the life of a farmer. LeMars Mutual was the defendant, and urged the jury to return a zero verdict. Additionally, the court made a very significant ruling in the area of expert testimony. The defense utilized Dr. Suga, an orthopedic surgeon from Sioux Falls, to do an “independent medical evaluation.” It is our contention that these types of evaluations generally are not independent, and in this case the evaluation was not independent.
Our client contended that the doctor only examined him for 9 minutes and 46 seconds, and had used a stopwatch at the evaluation to prove it. The doctor said that he had done the evaluation in 30-45 minutes, and that it took that amount of time to properly do the evaluation. At a pre-trial hearing where the court had the opportunity to listen to other people who have also been evaluated by Dr. Suga, and heard them testify to similar experiences, the court found that our clients were more credible, that the doctor didn’t spend the amount of time he claimed, and so the doctor lacked the foundation to testify–given that the doctor said it took 30-45 minutes to properly do an evaluation to render the opinions he chose to render. The court excluded Dr. Suga’s testimony.