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Appellants’ Failure to Object at Trial Costs Them Appeal (PA)

November 16, 2018

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The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently affirmed a trial court’s ruling regarding the amount of damages awarded by the jury’s verdict.  In <em><a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Showers-v.-Sams-East.pdf">Showers v. Sam’s East, Inc.</a>, </em>PA Superior Court No. 810 EDA 2018, appellants, who were plaintiffs in the underlying case, filed an appeal challenging the amount of damages awarded by the jury.

In the underlying case, Plaintiff Donyale Showers sued Sam’s East, Inc. after she slipped and fell on a wet floor at the Sam’s Club in Exton, PA.  Showers complained of right leg and knee pain, however she continued to shop.  A few days after the fall at Sam’s Club, Showers was walking with her husband when her right leg gave out causing her to fall and hit her right knee.  She underwent arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus.

At trial, her treating doctor testified that her torn meniscus was caused by both falls – the one at Sam’s Club and the subsequent fall following her walk.  Sam’s Club countered by putting forth defense expert testimony opining that Showers’ injuries were not causally related to her fall at Sam’s Club.  The jury found that both Sam’s Club and Showers were 50% negligent and awarded Showers $7,481.40 in damages; which equaled the total amount of medical costs claimed by Showers.

Showers appealed and argued that the court erred and abused its discretion by failing to submit to the jury a verdict slip that included separate damages categories for medical expenses, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering.  Showers argued that, at a charging conference prior to deliberation, they submitted a proposed verdict slip that delineated damages for both medical expenses and pain and suffering.  The court denied their request, and therefore Showers alleged that there was no way to determine whether the jury’s damage award is solely for medical expenses or also included an award for pain and suffering.

Upon review, the PA Superior court noted that Showers did not produce any record of the charging conference and therefore no evidence of any objection made regarding the final verdict sheet during the conference.  Additionally, Showers did not object to the final verdict sheet form during trial proceedings and also consented to the trial court’s jury instructions when they were given.  Thus, the first instance of Showers’ objection to the verdict sheet appeared in their post-trial motion.  Because there is no record of Showers objecting to the final verdict sheet either at the charging conference or during the trial proceedings, the PA Superior Court concluded that Showers had waived such objection.

It is often said that trial objections are like flags -- they are either raised or "waived."  Here, by failing to preserve her objection to the final verdict sheet, the plaintiff waived that objection, and the modest verdict stands.  Thanks to Greg Herrold for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:BGibbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.

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