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Hough v. McKiernan

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

October 17, 2014

Kevin R. Hough
v.
Shawn P. McKiernan et al

(PC 08-5961).

For Plaintiff: William M. Heffernan, Esq.

For Defendant: Peter A. Clarkin, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Page 854

Indeglia, Justice.

The defendant, Shawn P. McKiernan (McKiernan or defendant), appeals from a Superior Court ruling granting his motion for a remittitur and awarding the plaintiff, Kevin R. Hough (Hough or plaintiff), damages of $925,000. The defendant contends that this award was excessive and punitive in nature. This case came before the Supreme Court on September 30, 2014, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After hearing the arguments of counsel and reviewing the memoranda submitted on behalf of the parties, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown. Accordingly, we shall decide the appeal at this time without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

I

Facts and Travel

This case arises from McKiernan's assault on plaintiff on February 23, 2006. The plaintiff filed suit against defendant for negligence, assault, and battery on September 16, 2008.[1] At trial, defendant did not contest liability, and plaintiff presented evidence that he suffered a significant and traumatic brain injury as a result of the assault.

The case was tried to verdict in front of a jury between November 28, 2012 and December 2, 2012. At trial, Hough testified that he was walking home from his job at Walgreens in Warwick with a friend, when a vehicle drove up behind them and flashed its high beams. Hough testified that the occupants of the vehicle, which he would soon learn included McKiernan, yelled obscenities at them as they drove by. Hough further testified that the vehicle drove by them a second and third time. On the third occasion, Hough testified that the vehicle stopped a few car lengths in front of them, at which point three people jumped out. Hough testified that McKiernan exited from the driver's seat, approached

Page 855

him, asked if he wanted to fight, and proceeded to " take a swing" at him, only to miss when Hough ducked out of the way. Hough testified that McKiernan then punched him in the chest, which caused him to fall to the pavement. He indicated that he had no memory from the time of the punch until he woke up in the hospital some weeks later.

In a video deposition presented to the jury, Dr. Maria Guglielmo, plaintiff's neurosurgeon, testified that plaintiff was in " immediate danger of death" when he arrived at the hospital and that he had an " extremely swollen, damaged brain." Doctor Guglielmo further testified that she had to remove a large piece of plaintiff's skull so that the damaged brain could " expand out of the confines of the skull." The swelling was testified to have been so severe that the piece of skull that she had removed could not be put back in place, and had to ...


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