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PA Jury Has Discretion to Award Only Economic Damages

May 28, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Pierchalski-Abraham-v.-Thomas-1.pdf">Pierchalski &amp; Abraham v. Thomas</a></em>, Gemma Pierchalski and Joseph B. Abraham (“Plaintiffs/Appellants”) appealed an order dated April 4, 2019 entering judgment in their favor, following a jury trial in Pennsylvania.  The underlying lawsuit involved a rear-end collision that occurred in June, 2012. Appellants sought economic and non-economic damages due to injuries suffered by Pierchalski in the accident. After trial, the jury returned a verdict of $1,455.99 in economic losses. The jury found that defendant was the cause of Pierchalski’s injuries, but did not award any compensation for past medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, or loss of consortium.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Appellants filed post-trial motions alleging multiple errors on the part of the trial court. One of the arguments asserted was that the jury’s verdict was inadequate since it awarded economic damages that were lost as the result of pain, yet failed to award non-economic damages for pain and suffering.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">On that specific issue, the Court evaluated whether the jury’s award was contrary to the weight of the evidence. However, the trial court noted in its opinion that the verdict did not shock the court’s conscience given the lack of objective proof of Pierchalski’s injuries. The Court cited <em>Davis v. Mullen,</em> 773 A.2d 764, 767 (Pa. 2001), which states that “A jury’s award of medical expenses without compensation for pain and suffering should not be disturbed where the trial court had a reasonable basis to believe that: (1) the jury did not believe the plaintiff suffered any pain and suffering or (2) that a preexisting condition or injury was the sole cause of the alleged pain and suffering.” The Court also noted that when an injury is based on subjective complaints, it is reasonable for a jury to award zero damages for pain. See <em>Van Kirk v. O’Toole,</em> 857 A.2d 183, 186 (Pa. Super. 2004). The Court found that the jury’s verdict was not against the weight of the evidence and therefore trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Appellants’ motion for a new trial.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Court’s decision confirms that a jury can issue economic damages alone without awarding any damages for pain and suffering.    Thanks to Emily Finnegan for her contribution to this post.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Please email <a href="mailto:Haquino@wcmlaw.com">Heather Aquino</a> with any questions.</p>

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