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Cooper v. Thompson

Supreme Court of Alaska

June 26, 2015

MICHAEL J. COOPER and CENTRAL PLUMBING & HEATING, Appellants,
v.
SAMUEL L. THOMPSON, Appellee

Page 783

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 784

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Sen K. Tan, Judge. Superior Court No. 3AN-09-06600 CI.

Matthew D. Regan and Alex Vasauskas, Holmes Weddle & Barcott, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellants.

Marc W. June, Law Offices of Marc June, Anchorage, for Appellee.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 785

FABE, Chief Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

In December 2008 Michael Cooper caused a car accident that injured Samuel Thompson. During the second trial on compensatory damages the superior court excluded any evidence that Thompson had been assaulted by his then-girlfriend after the accident and limited the testimony of a defense expert witness. The superior court also delivered an instruction on liability for additional harm to which Cooper objected. The jury returned a $1,458,430 verdict in favor of Thompson, which exceeded his offer of judgment and thus entitled him to an award of attorney's fees under Alaska Civil Rule 68. The superior court calculated Thompson's fee award based on the contingency fee agreement he had entered into with his attorney. Cooper and his employer appeal the trial court's evidentiary rulings, jury instruction, and fee award. We reverse the complete exclusion of the evidence that Thompson had been assaulted because it was relevant to his claim of continuing injury suffered as a result of the car accident, and we remand for a new trial.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

This is the second appeal arising out of this litigation. We provided this overview in our previous decision:

In December 2008 Michael Cooper caused a car accident that injured Samuel Thompson. Thompson sued Cooper and Cooper's employer[, Central Plumbing & Heating, collectively " Central," ] for compensatory and punitive damages. The jury returned a verdict for Thompson ...

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