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Martinez-Morales v. Martens

Supreme Court of Alaska

February 19, 2016

JUAN MARTINEZ-MORALES, Appellant,
v.
RONDA MARTENS, Appellee.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, No. 3AN-13-09825 CI, Patrick J. McKay, Judge.

Charles W. Coe, Law Office of Charles W. Coe, Anchorage, for Appellant.

Gregory R. Henrikson and Laura Eakes, Walker & Eakes, Anchorage, for Appellee.

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

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

I. INTRODUCTION

This appeal arises from an accident in a parking lot in which a vehicle driven by Ronda Martens struck pedestrian Juan Martinez-Morales as he crossed the lot. A jury found that Martens was not negligent, and the superior court entered final judgment in her favor, awarding her costs and attorney's fees. Martinez-Morales appeals, arguing that the superior court erred by giving incorrect jury instructions on causation and damages, failing to give a multiple-cause jury instruction, declining to give Martinez-Morales's proposed jury instructions on the standard of care, and improperly admitting testimony from Martens's accident reconstruction expert. We conclude that Martinez-Morales's arguments relating to jury instructions on causation and damages are moot and that the superior court did not err in its jury instructions on negligence or in its admission of expert testimony. We therefore affirm the superior court in all respects.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

In June 2012 Juan Martinez-Morales was crossing a parking lot on foot after exiting a restaurant when he was struck by a car driven by Ronda Martens. At trial the parties disputed the facts of the accident. Martinez-Morales claimed he "walk[ed] normally" into the parking lot and past a truck, looked both ways before stepping into the "main path" of the parking lot, and was struck by the front of Martens's vehicle. Martens claimed that she turned into the parking lot, Martinez-Morales "ran right in front" of her, and she stopped immediately.

Martinez-Morales sued Martens for negligence, alleging that Martens was driving too fast in what he considered the wrong lane of the parking lot, failed to warn Martinez-Morales before hitting him, and failed to yield the right of way to a pedestrian. He claimed that Martens's alleged negligence caused him to suffer bodily injury and damages in the form of medical expenses, physical and emotional pain and suffering, lost wages, and loss of the full use of his body and enjoyment of life.

The case proceeded to trial before Superior Court Judge Patrick J. McKay in November 2014. The jury found that Martens was not negligent, and the court entered final judgment in her favor in December 2014, awarding her costs under Alaska Civil Rule 79 and attorney's fees under Alaska Civil Rule 82. Martinez-Morales appeals and requests that we reverse and remand for a new trial.

III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

"We apply our independent judgment in determining mootness because, as a matter of judicial policy, mootness is a question of law."[1] "The decision whether to include a particular instruction rests with the discretion of the trial court."[2] "We generally review a trial court's decision to admit expert testimony for abuse of discretion and will reverse 'only ...


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