Martin v. Charleston Area Medical Ctr

In Martin v. Charleston Area Medical Ctr., 181 W. Va. 308, 382 S.E.2d 502 (1989), the Court added a new component to its review of allegedly inadequate damages in wrongful death cases. In Martin, the decedent died as a result of a diagnostic procedure at the Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC). In the resulting wrongful death action, the decedent was assessed 40% negligence and the defendants were assessed a total of 60% negligence. The jury awarded damages in the amount of $ 250,000 and the plaintiff appealed alleging an inadequate verdict. The Court stated as the applicable law: "In a tort action arising from wrongful death for alleged medical malpractice this Court will set aside a jury verdict and award a new trial on all issues where: (1) the jury verdict is clearly inadequate when the evidence on damages is viewed most strongly in favor of defendant; (2) liability is contested and there is evidence to sustain a jury verdict in favor of either plaintiff or defendant; (3) the jury award, while inadequate, is not so nominal under the evidence as to permit the court to infer that it was a defendant's verdict perversely expressed." The Court explained: "In the case before us our decision is informed to some extent by the fact that the plaintiff is a black woman suing for the death of a black husband and father on behalf of herself and four black children. In cases of this type involving white plaintiffs, when plaintiffs prevail at all, the awards . . . are substantially higher." (Martin, 181 W. Va. at 312, 382 S.E.2d at 506.)