Luther v. LanderAnnotate this Case
In November 2010, Stevie Lander was driving on an icy road. Her vehicle slid into a Bonnie Luther's car. Although Luther reported no injuries at the scene of the accident, that evening she went to the emergency room for head and neck pain, and within weeks she began to suffer from lower back pain that prevented her from returning to her job as a flight attendant. Luther attributed her pain to the accident and sued Lander for negligence two years later. Lander admitted negligence and made an offer of judgment, which Luther did not accept. The case proceeded to trial in 2014, and the jury awarded Luther a total of $3,259 for past medical expenses, past wage and benefit loss, and past non-economic losses.
The superior court granted attorney’s fees to Lander under Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 68(b) and denied Luther’s motion for a new trial. Luther appealed, arguing that the superior court erred by denying her a new trial based on inadequate damages and by excluding evidence of the amount of payments for medical treatment made by Luther’s insurer. She also challenged the superior court’s decision to grant attorney’s fees based on billing records that were filed under seal. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of payments made for Luther’s medical treatment by her insurer. But because that error was harmless, the Court affirmed the final judgment entered by the superior court.