High court partially affirms, partially reverses accident damage award
The CNMI Supreme Court has affirmed and reversed in part a trial court decision awarding damages in Antonio v. Baek, 2023 MP 2. The high court decision was issued on March 14, 2023.
According to a CNMI Judiciary new release yesterday, it said the plaintiff was driving along with her infant son when the defendant caused an accident. The plaintiffs sued the defendant and requested damages for medical care, pain and suffering, lost income, loss of enjoyment of life and for injuries to her son.
At trial, it emerged that the plaintiff had already been experiencing for many years some of the pain and other difficulties that she blamed on the accident. Based on her doctor’s testimony, the trial court found that the accident exacerbated her preexisting condition. It awarded damages for medical care, but denied any damages for all the other categories, finding the evidence insufficient. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court had improperly put on her the burden of proof for apportioning harm between the accident and her preexisting condition.
The Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly placed the burden of proof on the plaintiff. It also agreed with the trial court that the plaintiff provided insufficient evidence for lost income, loss of enjoyment of life, and for injuries to her son. However, the Supreme Court found that there was sufficient evidence to award damages for pain and suffering, specifically the expert testimony from plaintiff’s doctor. The Supreme Court held whenever a court awards damages for medical care, damages for pain and suffering must follow. The Supreme Court remanded the case for the trial court to determine how much should be awarded for pain and suffering.
For further information, contact the Supreme Court at Supreme.Court@NMIJudiciary.gov. (PR)