FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04CV-16-187]
HONORABLE XOLLIE DUNCAN, JUDGE
Kezhaya Law, by: Metthew A. Kezhaya, for appellant.
RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, JUDGE.
Dale appeals following a bench trial in the Benton County
Circuit Court. On appeal, Dale argues that the circuit court
erred by (1) failing to award him prejudgment interest and
limiting his postjudgment interest to four percent; (2)
excluding estimates for future dental and orthodontic
expenses; (3) refusing to award him damages for his
emergency-room bill and awarding those damages to the
hospital; and (4) not awarding him punitive damages. We
affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.
February 8, 2016, Dale filed suit against Jeremy White
alleging claims for assault, battery, and breach of contract.
The complaint alleged that White kicked Dale in the face
multiple times which resulted in damage to Dale's
"bite structure." Dale attached a written contract
to the complaint in which White assumed financial
responsibility for Dale's dental expenses if Dale agreed
to forgo criminal charges and any further legal action.
court held a bench trial on March 1, 2017. The testimony at
trial showed that during a social gathering at White's
home, White and Dale got into a physical altercation,
resulting in injury to Dale's mouth and teeth. The
incident occurred around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. Both White and
Dale testified that they had been drinking alcohol throughout
the evening. Dale admitted that he had used rude language
toward White, and White admitted that he "threw the
testified that immediately after the incident, he filed a
police report and went to the emergency room at Northwest
Arkansas Hospital. He later went to an orthodontist and a
dentist. At the dentist, Dale received a cleaning and an
estimate for reconstruction of his teeth. At the
orthodontist, he received an estimate for braces. Dale
testified that he and White eventually agreed that he would
drop the criminal charges against White in exchange for
White's paying his dental expenses, as evidenced by the
written contract. White paid for the dental cleaning but
refused to pay the emergency-room bill, the orthodontic
estimate, or the dental estimate.
trial, Dale introduced into evidence a statement from
Northwest Arkansas Hospital, showing a summary of charges for
$8937.95 for an emergency room visit. The statement shows the
total amount due as zero dollars. Dale testified that he did
not make any payments toward the $8937.95 and had no
intention of paying it, but he argued the collateral-source
rule allowed him to recover the sum.
attempted to introduce into evidence the estimates from the
orthodontist and dentist. Specifically, the document from the
dentist is labeled "TREATMENT PLAN" and totals
$1545. The document from the orthodontist is labeled
"Payment Options" and shows an estimated balance of
$6125. The court excluded the evidence as hearsay because the
estimates were for future medical expenses, not medical
expenses incurred, and Dale failed to offer a witness to
authenticate the documents.
conclusion of trial, the court found in favor of Dale.
However, the court found that the only evidence of damages
was the dental bill for the cleaning and the Northwest
Arkansas Hospital statement. As to the dental bill, the court
found that the evidence showed that White had already paid
the bill. As to the hospital statement, the court found that
Dale had not paid the hospital and had no intention of paying
the hospital. Accordingly, the court ordered White to pay
$8937.95 directly to Northwest Arkansas Hospital, and if the
hospital declined the payment, the court ordered the funds to
be returned to White. The court awarded Dale $700 for pain
and suffering but denied him any punitive damages.
to the entry of the written judgment, on March 10, 2017, Dale
filed a motion for a new trial. He argued that the court
erred by excluding the orthodontic and dental estimates, by
directing the judgment to Northwest Arkansas Hospital, and by
denying him punitive damages.
April 27, 2017, the court entered a written judgment. The
written order reflects the court's oral rulings. As to
the $8937.95 emergency-room bill, the court stated that Dale
is not entitled to a windfall for medical bills he didn't
ever pay; however, the Court has determined that judgment
will be entered against the Defendant in the sum of eight
thousand thirty-seven dollars and ninety-five cents ($8,
937.95), which judgment may be satisfied only by direct
payment to Northwest Arkansas Hospital in Bentonville,
Arkansas. Should ...