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Siek v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co.

December 21, 2009

KRYSTYNA SIEK, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT, AND RYSZARD SIEK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW JERSEY MANUFACTURERS INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. L-177-07.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued December 2, 2009

Before Judges Payne and Waugh.

Defendant New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) appeals the Law Division's order denying its motion for a remittitur to reduce the amount of the jury's award to plaintiff Krystyna Siek for lost wages. We affirm.

I.

On July 27, 2001, Siek sustained injuries to her neck and back as the result of an automobile accident involving an uninsured motorist. Siek brought this action against NJM for payment of uninsured motorist (UM) benefits. Siek's claim was subject to the "verbal threshold" contained in N.J.S.A. 39:6A- 8(a).

NJM stipulated that the uninsured driver was negligent. The issue of damages was tried before a jury, which concluded that Siek's injuries were not "permanent" and did not satisfy the verbal threshold. Consequently, Siek did not receive an award for non-economic damages. The jury found, however, that Siek suffered economic damages from the injuries she sustained in the accident, awarding her $36,000 in lost wages.

Arguing that Siek's lost wage claim was limited to the period between the date of the accident and her initial return to work early the following year, NJM moved for a remittitur.

NJM also argued that there had been an agreement among counsel to that effect. Siek opposed the motion, arguing that there had been testimony from which the jury could have determined that Siek retired at least a year before she was eligible because of pain resulting from her accident-related injuries. Siek also argued that NJM's motion was untimely.

Judge Paul Innes denied NJM's motion. Although he concluded that the motion was timely because of a delay in finalizing the judgment, he determined that there was a factual basis for the jury's verdict. He stated his reasons as follows:

It's argued by the defendant that the amount of lost wages claimed by plaintiff through the closing argument was 24 weeks at an average weekly earning of $468.

Counsel states that defendant's and plaintiff's counsel had come to an informal agreement that this form represented the gross amount of lost wages due to the plaintiff.

Counsel states that, prior to the commencement of the trial, defense counsel advised the Court that if he would simply refer to the tax tables relative to reducing any gross wage to a net wage.

It's argued by the defense counsel that the gross amount of lost wages at $468 over 24 weeks is $11,232 minus $1,797.12 in taxes for a wage loss of $9,435.

Plaintiff received $8,082 in temporary disability benefits which must be subtracted from the total amount as alleged by the defendant of $9,435 for a total of $1,353.

It's argued by the defendant that there was never any evidence put forth that plaintiff earned any other monies or actually applied for any other employment position which would have supplemented her salary. Therefore the only wages that were lost were ...


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