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The $64,000 Question -- "Can I have more than $64,000?" (PA)

May 2, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="">Wright v. Marriott Decision</a></em>, plaintiff alleged injuries from an alleged slip and fall on a patch of ice on a walkway outside a Residence Inn.  Specifically, plaintiff injured his left shoulder which required arthroscopy. A Philadelphia jury awarded plaintiff $64,000.  After the verdict, plaintiff appealed arguing that the award would have been higher if he was not prejudiced by the exclusion of his expert on the eve of the trial.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Superior Court panel of judges granted a new trial to plaintiff on damages , stating that the trial court judge misapplied the standard for admitting expert testimony. According to Judge Kunselman, “Plaintiff’s expert has dealt with patients in his practice who have orthopedic or shoulder-type injuries and therefore has possesses a reasonable pretension to specialized knowledge regarding plaintiff’s medical issues sufficient to assist the trier of fact,” as required by the state Supreme Court’s 1995 ruling in <em>Miller v Brass Rail Tavern</em>. Judge Kunselman further explained, “that an orthopedist may have been more qualified does not mean plaintiff’s expert was totally unqualified to serve as an expert on causation and damages in this personal injury case.” The panel ultimately found that not allowing plaintiff’s expert to testify at trial prejudiced the plaintiff and thus he did not get a fair trial on damages. Judge Kunselman stated:</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Without Dr. Sedacca’s testimony, Wright could not offer a credible medical perspective. Wright himself did not have any medical training or knowledge; he could only explain his personal experience—what happened, how he felt, and the treatments he received. However, there was no objective expert medical testimony to corroborate his subjective testimony. Dr. Sedacca’s testimony was critical to fully explaining to the jury what happened to Wright physically, how his injuries affected him and the extent to which they affected him. Most significant though is that Wright was not able to present evidence of his prognosis and the impact this injury would have on him into the future.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The error furthered prejudiced the plaintiff when Marriott emphasized to the jury during closing argument that the expert had failed to put forth any medical expert testimony. Thus, plaintiff now has another chance to obtain a higher award.  Thanks to Melisa Buchowiec for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.</p>


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