In a personal injury action in which the plaintiff sought a seven-figure verdict, the California Court of Appeal issued a published opinion agreeing with Horvitz & Levy’s position that plaintiff invited any error in the jury instructions and verdict form. The Court of Appeal also agreed with Horvitz & Levy’s position that substantial evidence supported the jury’s defense verdict on causation.
Tyler Harano rear-ended Anthony Davis's car while Davis was stopped at a stoplight. After the accident, Davis drove home and called his lawyer but sought no immediate medical attention. Davis later sued Harano for negligence, claiming nearly $800,000 in lien-based medical expenses for treatment of his neck and left shoulder by attorney-referred doctors.
At trial, Harano conceded negligence but denied that the accident caused any injury to Davis. Harano’s experts testified that Davis’s neck condition predated the incident and was the normal result of aging, and that his left shoulder condition—which did not materialize until more than a year after the incident—was caused by Davis’s diabetes. The jury found that the incident was not a substantial factor in causing Davis injury, and judgment was entered for Harano. Davis appealed. Horvitz & Levy briefed and argued the appeal on behalf of Harano.
On appeal, Davis argued that the jury’s verdict was not supported by substantial evidence and that the uncontradicted evidence showed the incident caused his neck injury. Davis also argued that the CACI instruction defining “substantial factor” and the corresponding question on the verdict form were erroneous.
The Court of Appeal affirmed in a published opinion tracking Horvitz & Levy’s arguments. The court rejected Davis’s argument that causation was undisputed and found that substantial evidence supported the jury’s finding that Harano did not cause Davis injury. The court recognized that the issue of causation turned on Davis’s credibility, because there was no objective evidence to support Davis’s claim of increased neck pain. The court noted that the jury had many reasons to doubt Davis’s credibility, such as the fact that his attorney referred him to lien doctors to incur “attorney-driven medical expenses.”The Court of Appeal also rejected Davis’s arguments that the substantial factor instruction and corresponding question on the verdict form were erroneous. On that point, the court agreed with Horvitz & Levy’s argument that Davis invited any error in the instruction and verdict form by jointly proposing them and failing to object to, or seek to amend, them in the trial court.