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A Significant Injury? No, Just a Transient Rub of Life (PA)

March 10, 2016

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The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently upheld a Montgomery Court of Common Pleas jury decision to award no damages in a car accident case.  In <a href="" rel="">Gold v. Rosen</a>, No. 3303 EDA 2014, 2016 Pa. Super. 44, (Pa. Super. Feb. 19, 2016, Stevens, J.), the plaintiff was rear-ended by defendant Terri Rosen.  She claims to have suffered headaches, back pain and neck pain as a result of the accident. At trial, the parties stipulated that Rosen was negligent and that her negligence caused plaintiff to suffer a neck sprain/strain.  However, the defense disputed the extent of Gold’s neck injuries and defense experts testified that her injuries were primarily the result of prior accidents.  The jury subsequently found that although Rosen was negligent, Gold was not entitled to a monetary award.
Gold filed a motion to overturn the verdict but the trial court denied that motion.  Gold then appealed. The Superior Court recognized that not all injuries are serious enough to warrant compensation, even though there may be some pain.  The Court noted that Gold had a long history of cervical and lumbar injuries.  Thus in circumstances where it was reasonable for the jury to believe that the plaintiff did not suffer any pain or that a preexisting injury was the sole cause of the alleged pain, the nonmonetary verdict should not be disturbed.  This is known as the “transient rub of life” doctrine.
This is case is worthwhile as a reminder that in cases where the plaintiff has significant pre-existing injuries, a strong presentation of those injuries can significantly reduce the potential award.  Thanks to Remy Cahn for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.

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