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PA Update – Wilson vs. Hannigan (August Term, 2022) No. 00196 (C.P. Philadelphia County, PA; November 22, 2022)

An appeal of Jury’s award of medical expenses without compensation for pain and suffering will not be disturbed where the Jury did not believe Plaintiff suffered any pain or suffering, or that a pre-existing condition or injury was the sole cause of the alleged pain and suffering. 

Plaintiff suffered personal injuries in this matter when she tripped on a defect in the Defendant’s sidewalk.  Plaintiff testified at trial that she had exited her vehicle and stepped on something causing her to twist her ankle.  She was unable to identify what she may have stepped on.

The following day, Plaintiff went to the hospital for injuries.  Her examination indicated upon inspection her ankle was normal.  There were no abrasions, contusions, deformities, or lacerations.  However, there was some mild edema on the right side of the lateral malleolus when compared to the left.  An x-ray failed to reveal any fractures.  Plaintiff was placed in splint and a shoe boot.  In addition, she was provided with an ace bandage and crutches.  The diagnosis was a right ankle sprain.  She was instructed to discontinue use of the ace bandage and an air cast after two to three days.  She was also instructed to follow up with her PCP within four days.  The Plaintiff failed to follow those instructions.  Six weeks later she sought additional medical care and treatment from a physician.

Plaintiff treated with the physician for six months.  The doctor indicated Plaintiff had pain on all ranges of motion including flexion, extension, internal and external deviation of the ankle.  However, the doctor did not prescribe any medication. He did note the claimant had been prescribed medication in the form of Motrin, Neurontin, Lidocaine ointment and Oxycodone.  The doctor’s diagnosis was acute post traumatic right ankle sprain/strain; acute post traumatic right foot strain/sprain.  There were no torn ligaments or tendons in the affected area and treatment did not require surgical intervention.  Plaintiff further testified that she walked with a limp, but never had to walk with a cane or any assistant device.  At the time of trial, the jury observed the Plaintiff walking to and from the jury stand.

After deliberation, the jury returned a verdict finding both parties equally at fault and awarded damages in the amount of $2,650.00, the cost of medicals, to Plaintiff.  Plaintiff filed post-trial motions requesting a new trial on damages.  At oral argument, Plaintiff argued the jury having found the Defendant negligent and awarding the cost of medicals failed to award her any non-economic damages.  Plaintiff’s motion for new trial was denied.  She subsequently appealed.

The Court issued a 1925(b) Order directing the Plaintiff to file with the Office of Judicial Records (OJR) and serve on the Trial Judge a Concise Statement of Errors complained of on appeal no later than 21 days after the entrance of their Order. As part of the Order, the Plaintiff was warned that failure to file and serve a timely statement would be considered a waiver of all objections to the Order.  Plaintiff’s Statement was filed with OJR.  However, she failed to serve the Trial Court.  Of particular note was the Plaintiff’s statement of errors complained of on appeal was anything but concise.  It was a 10-page statement including a summary of facts, legal conclusions, and arguments.  Moreover, Plaintiff did not cite an error voir that controlled the outcome of the case.  Rather, she took issue with the adequacy of the amount awarded by the jury.

The grant or denial of a new trial rests in the discretion of the trial court. A jury verdict is set aside as inadequate when it appears to have been the product of passion, prejudice, personality or corruption, or where it clearly appears from uncontradicted evidence the amount of the verdict bears no reasonable relation to the loss suffered by the Plaintiff.  Kiser v. Schulte, 538 Pa. 219, 225, 648 A.2d 1, 4 (1994).

In this particular case there was adequate evidence to allow the jury to believe Plaintiff had not suffered compensable non-economic damages as a result of this trip and fall.  The record demonstrates that Plaintiff did not seek treatment from the physician for six weeks following the incident. In addition the jury could have found the treatment referred to by the Plaintiff was excessive based upon the Plaintiff’s ability to walk to the corner and back to her car after the incident; hospital medical records created closer to the date of the incident showing only mild edema; the inconsistent testimony of the Plaintiff and the information found in her treating physicians report; and, the jury’s observation of the witness in the Courtroom when she testified that she walked with a limp.  The Court found the jury had a reasonably basis to believe the Plaintiff did not suffer non-economic damages.  Therefore, the Court denied the Plaintiff’s request for a new trial on the issue of damages.