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Torrence v. Gamble

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 21, 2019

Latoya Torrence, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Courtney Gamble, Appellee-Defendant.

          Appeal from the Clark Circuit Court No. 10C02-1505-CT-68. The Honorable Bradley Jacobs, Judge.

          Attorney for Appellant Michael K. Nisbet Jeffersonville, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Rodney L. Scott Carli A. Clowers Waters Tyler Hofmann & Scott, LLC New Albany, Indiana

          RILEY, JUDGE.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Plaintiff, LaToya Torrence (Torrence), appeals the jury's verdict in favor of Appellee-Defendant, Courtney Gamble (Gamble), following a personal injury action arising out of a motor vehicle accident.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶3] Torrence raises three issues on appeal, which we consolidate and restate as: Whether the trial court properly instructed the jury by providing it with a general verdict form based on Indiana Model Civil Jury Instruction Verdict Form 5017 in favor of Gamble.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] Torrence's personal injury action against Gamble arises out of a motor vehicle accident. On July 30, 2013, Torrence was stopped in the south bound lane of Allison Lane in Clark County, Indiana, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before turning left. While Torrence was waiting, Gamble rear-ended Torrence's vehicle. The accident resulted in substantial damage to the vehicles and personal injury to Torrence.

         [¶5] On May 13, 2015, Torrence filed a Complaint, alleging negligence and seeking property damages, as well as damages for lost wages, and medical expenses. Gamble denied liability for the accident and asserted a comparative fault defense in her Answer to Torrence's Complaint. On September 25 and 26, 2018, a jury trial was conducted. At the conclusion of the presentation of evidence, the trial court discussed the proposed final jury instructions with the parties outside the presence of the jury. The trial court provided the jury with 19 Final Instructions and 4 Jury Verdict forms. Jury Verdict Forms A, B, and C were referenced in Final Instruction 17, which outlined the procedure the jury was to utilize to determine fault and damages in accordance with the Comparative Fault Doctrine. Verdict Form D-which was offered by Gamble and objected to by Torrence-was based on Indiana Model Civil Jury Instruction Verdict Form 5017 and read as follows:

We, the Jury, decide in favor of the Defendant, [Gamble], and against the Plaintiff, [Torrence].

(Transcript Vol. II, p. 143). As no written instruction was given to the jurors on the applicability of Verdict Form D, the trial court allowed the parties to address the use of Verdict Form D in closing argument. After deliberations, the jury returned a verdict for Gamble and against Torrence, ...


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