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Pennsylvania Court Overturns "Grossly Excessive" Verdict (PA)

March 6, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">No defense attorney or insurance professional wants to be in a position where they have to challenge the size of a verdict, but one recent decision from the Superior Court of Pennsylvania shows why trying to do so is sometimes worth the proverbial shot.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="">Guirlene v. Ryan</a><a href=""></a></em>, the plaintiff had been injured in a motor vehicle accident.  She alleged that she was driving in Philadelphia when she was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by the defendant.  Her injuries included neck, shoulder, and back pain and she was treated with physical therapy, ibuprofen, two injections, and MRIs and EMGs.  The plaintiff's expert testified that she may have possible future medical care costs nearing $600,000, however, her expert did not opine that she would incur those costs.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Following trial the jury returned a verdict awarding Guirlene with $600,000 in future economic damages for future medical expenses. The jury did not award Guirlene any non-economic damages. The jury found that Guirlene did not suffer a serious impairment of bodily function.  However, because Guirlene was a limited-tort plaintiff, under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1705(a)(1) she “may seek recovery for all medical and other out-of-pocket expenses, but not for pain and suffering or other nonmonetary damages unless the injuries suffered fall within the definition of ‘serious injury’ . . .”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">As such, on May 10, 2018, counsel for Jaremijczuk filed a post-trial motion to set aside the verdict, and to order a new trial on all issues. The Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County granted Appellee’s motion finding that the jury’s $600,000 verdict was “against the weight of the evidence and so grossly excessive as to shock its sense of justice; and, second, it stated that the verdict slip incorrectly permitted the jury to consider the question of future economic damages before determining whether Ms. Jean-Baptiste had suffered a serious injury.” <em>See</em> TCO at 6, 10-11. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania stated that Guirlene’s expert testified that she had experienced some improvement of her pain through use of ibuprofen and therapy, and that her social activities were not affected, and she only missed three days of work because of the accident and continues to work full time. The Court therefore found that the evidence outlined does not suggest that her future medical expenses will amount to $600,000. The Court upheld the trial court’s order, finding that because the jury found that Guirlene did not suffer a serious impairment of a body function, the jury’s verdict awarding $600,000 was against the weight of evidence and so grossly excessive as to shock the court’s sense of justice.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;"><span>Thanks to Emily Finnegan for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Mike Gauvin </a></span><span>with any questions.</span></p>


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