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A Missed Opportunity by Defense Counsel in PA

May 29, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="">Shiflet v. Lehigh Valley Health Network, Inc.</a>,</em> the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s $2,391,620 verdict in favor of the plaintiff under the “general-verdict rule,” which states that “when a jury returns a general verdict involving two or more issues, and the verdict is supported as to at least one issue, the verdict will not be reversed on appeal.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The plaintiff in <em>Shiflett</em> underwent knee surgery at Lehigh Valley Hospital. While recovering from her surgery in the hospital, she fell out of her hospital bed and fractured her left tibia, which went undiagnosed by the nursing staff. She was then transferred to a rehabilitation unit. While undergoing rehabilitation therapy, the tibia fracture displaced. She then underwent two additional surgeries and suffered permanent left leg injuries.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The plaintiff subsequently sued the hospital for negligence. At the close of trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $2,391,620 in damages. There was no breakdown of damages on the verdict sheet, and counsel for the hospital did not object or seek apportionment of the verdict amount.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Superior Court ruled that one of the claims upon which the plaintiff prevailed at trial was time-barred and should not have been submitted to the jury. Finding that some portion of the jury’s damage award may have been based upon the time-barred claim, the intermediate appellate court remanded the case for a new trial on damages. After its review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court erred in this regard, as pursuant to the “general-verdict rule” adopted by <em>Halper v. Jewish Family &amp; Children’s Services</em>, 963 A.2d 1282 (Pa. 2009), the Hospital waived any entitlement to a new trial on damages when it failed to request a special interrogatory on the verdict sheet that would have permitted the jury to allocate the damages awarded on each claim</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Shiflett </em>demonstrates the need for counsel to be aware of the timeliness of requesting an allocation of damages.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to John Lang for his contribution to this post. Please email <a href="">Heather Aquino</a> with any questions.</p>

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