In an opinion that the Virginia Supreme Court handed down in March of this year, Justice Powell, writing for the majority, held that counsel for the plaintiff, in his closing argument, was permitted to assign a fixed dollar amount for each element of damages sought. Wakole v. Barber, 283 Va. 488, 722 S.E.2d 238 (2012). The plaintiff originally filed suit in Fairfax Circuit Court for personal injuries she sustained in an automobile accident, seeking $50,000 in damages.
The defendant admitted liability, and the trial proceeded forward on damages alone. The plaintiff introduced evidence of her medical expenses, which totaled approximately $5,000. In his closing argument, Barber’s counsel displayed a chart, specifically calling it a formula, of all elements of damages sought — medical bills, past inconvenience, past pain and suffering, full compensation for her injuries, and future pain and limitations — assigning a monetary value to each item. By adding these component parts, the plaintiff arrived at the total amount of damages sought. Over the defendant’s objection that this type of argument was speculative and violated Virginia Supreme Court precedent, the court permitted the plaintiff’s counsel to present the argument, and the jury returned a $30,000 verdict for the plaintiff.
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