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Pennsylvania Court Holds that Injured Plaintiff is Not Entitled to New Trial Based on Jury Decision Not to Award Future Medical Damages

In a personal injury lawsuit before the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, the plaintiff, Sean Armstrong, appealed the judgment entered in favor of defendant Sebastiano Augello.

Mr. Armstrong sought damages from Mr. Augello for a car accident.   Mr. Augello disputed not his liability but the nature and extent of the damages claimed by Mr. Armstrong. The jury found that Mr. Armstrong suffered a serious impairment of body function due to the motor vehicle accident and awarded him $50,000 for past, present, and future pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and embarrassment and humiliation. The parties had stipulated to the amount for past medical damages in the amount of $1,562.00. The jury awarded $0.00 damages for future medical expenses.

Mr. Armstrong filed a motion for post-trial relief, asserting that failing to award damages for future medical expenses went against the weight of the evidence. Mr. Armstrong stated that because of this, he was entitled to a new trial on that issue.

The trial court denied Mr. Armstrong’s motion, and he filed a praecipe to enter judgment on the jury’s verdict.  The appeal followed.

On appeal, the issue was whether the trial court erred in failing to award a new trial on the issue of damages for future medical expenses. Mr. Armstrong alleged that the jury’s verdict “shock[ed] one’s sense of justice” and that the court abused its discretion when it refused to grant a new trial on the sole issue of future medical expenses.

The court asked whether, after considering the evidence the jury found credible, and viewing the verdict in a light favorable to the prevailing party, the court could reasonably have reached its conclusion. In denying a motion for a new trial, the court is to determine whether the trial court committed an error of law that controlled the outcome of the case or committed an abuse of discretion.

Mr. Armstrong argued his entitlement to relief was based on the evidence of damages in the form of future medical expenses. During trial, the testimony of an expert witness, Dr. Bruce Grossinger, suggested that Mr. Armstrong sustained serious and permanent brain injuries.   He stated that the permanent nature of these injuries likely required continued treatment with Focalin and Xyrem, costly medications that Mr. Armstrong could not afford after losing his medical insurance coverage.

Mr. Augello presented testimony from an expert neuropsychologist who concluded that Mr. Armstrong made an excellent recovery. During the trial, Mr. Armstrong also stated that he needed continued use of prescription medications to help him function cognitively. At the time of trial, he had not used either of the medications, Focalin and Xyrem, for more than a year. He had been working continuously, and he stated that he regularly engaged in athletics and socialized with friends.

The appeals court stated that the evidence presented by Mr. Armstrong brought into question Dr. Grossinger’s testimony concerning Mr. Armstrong’s future need of Focalin and Xyrem to support his cognitive functions. The court stated that this testimony supporting Mr. Armstrong’s claim that he would incur future medical expenses was not uncontroverted.

A conflict in the evidence does not compel a new trial, and a jury can accept or reject all, some, or none of the evidence. The decision not to award future medical expenses did not shock one’s sense of justice. The judgment was affirmed.

In this case, the appeals court reviewed the testimony presented at trial and affirmed the jury’s damages verdict. At Needle Law Firm, our injury attorneys help accident victims secure compensation for their injuries. Contact our office for a free consultation by calling 570-344-1266.

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