Anguish management

The SE Texas Record Oct. 3, 2009, 2:32am

Mental anguish isn't worth what it used to be. There must be a glut on the market causing devaluation and declining prices. A bucketful of anguish and a dollar only will get you a cup of coffee, it seems.

That's what A.B. Mansfield and Clinton Findley discovered recently in Judge Bob Wortham's 58th District Court.

In June 2005, a truck that was allegedly speeding and following too closely collided with vehicles driven by Mansfield and Findley. In February 2007, Mansfield and Findley got together and filed suit against Trahan Trucking, the driver's employer, seeking monetary damages for mental anguish, physical pain and future medical expenses.

When the case finally concluded last month, however, Mansfield and Findley received nothing for their anguish, and nothing for pain and future expenses. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Though the agony of defeat was added to their anguish, the depressed duo were awarded a total of $15,000 to cover medical expenses for injuries received in the accident -- $10,000 for Mansfield, $5,000 for Findley.

Thanks to a motion to prevent disclosure, the jury didn't know the plaintiffs already had been compensated for their medical expenses with benefits received from their insurance companies. So the plaintiffs actually did manage to get some extra cash, even if it was considerably less than they had hoped.

Apparently, the jurors had doubts about the magnitude of their anguish.

How do you measure anguish? It's an intangible and it's subjective to boot. What's anguishing to one person may not ruffle another. Are certain people entitled to greater damages because of heightened sensitivity? Should the hard-nosed and thin-skinned settle for less?

We'll leave those thorny questions to legal theoreticians.

What we'd really like to know is this: Will the plaintiffs use their award to reimburse the insurance companies that already have compensated them? Or will the prospect of doing so cause them additional anguish? If that's the case, they can sue us for suggesting it.

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