The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hendricks v. Allied Waste Transportation, Inc. on May 24, 2012.
Negligence—Noneconomic Damages—Subject Matter Jurisdiction—Administrative Remedies—Jury Instructions—Costs.
In this negligence action, defendant Allied Waste Transportation, Inc. (Allied) appealed a jury verdict awarding plaintiffs Paul and Linda Hendricks $160,100 in damages. The judgment was affirmed.
While driving an Allied garbage truck, an Allied employee backed into the corner of the Hendrickses’ house in the City of Englewood (City). After Allied admitted liability, the trial focused on the amount of damages. The Hendrickses’ expert testified that because the damage could not be repaired due to structural deficiencies, the damaged portion of the home would need to be torn down and rebuilt.
Allied contended that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the Hendrickses failed to exhaust their administrative remedies by failing to complete the building permit application process before the damages trial. However, the Hendrickses’ complaint did not seek review of an administrative action, and the building permit process does not provide a remedy for the Hendrickses’ injury. Accordingly, the Hendrickses were not required to exhaust administrative remedies before seeking judicial review.
Allied also contended that the trial court erred by providing jury instructions that misstated the law about noneconomic damages and by admitting testimony about noneconomic damages. The trial court instructed the jury that recoverable damages included “damages and losses suffered by the plaintiffs as a result of the defendant’s conduct, including loss of enjoyment, annoyance, discomfort, and inconvenience,” which are not emotional distress damages. Therefore, the jury was properly instructed on noneconomic damages.
Allied next contended that the trial court erred by permitting Mrs. Hendricks to testify about “pure emotional damages.” Mrs. Hendricks testified that she was “dismayed” and “distraught” by the damage to her property, which are recoverable components of noneconomic damages. Therefore, the trial court did not err in admitting her testimony.
Allied further contended that the trial court was required to grant its request for a hearing on the reasonableness of the Hendrickses’ bill of costs. The Hendrickses’ bill of costs included costs that were statutorily allowed or otherwise subject to a fixed standard, as well as costs for expert witnesses that cannot be validated by statute or a fixed standard. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the request for a hearing on costs where Allied did not specify which costs it contested and offered no reason for its challenge other than a bare statement that the costs were unreasonable.
Allied also argued that the trial court erred by awarding the Hendrickses prejudgment interest from the date their property was damaged. Because the jury returned a general verdict form that did not apportion damages, the trial court appropriately awarded prejudgment interest from the date the Hendrickses’ house initially was damaged, which also is when any noneconomic damages began accruing.
Summary and full case available here.