Friday, May 21, 2010

Recent Trial Court Limited Tort Decision

A recent March 4, 2010 Court of Common Pleas limited tort decision was brought to my attention. In the Lawrence County case of Harland v. Pennsylvania State Police, No. 10379-CV-2008 (Lawrence Co. 2010 Cox, J.), the injured party filed suit against the Defendant seeking to recover both economic and non-economic damages for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident caused by the alleged negligence of a Pennsylvania State Trooper.

The Defendants filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, asserting that the Defendant was not entitled to recover non-economic damages given that the Plaintiff had selected the limited tort option and the Plaintiff’s injuries allegedly did not breach the “serious injury” threshold.

The trial court denied the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and found that reasonable minds could differ in this case on whether or not a “serious injury” was sustained. A review of the case reveals that the Plaintiff alleged, and offered proof, that he sustained obviously significant injuries to his head, neck, back, left shoulder, left arm, and left wrist as a result of the accident. The opinion notes that these injuries led to at least two different surgeries (including arthroscopic wrist surgery and arthroscopic shoulder surgery), approximately 40 physical therapy sessions, over six months of missed work.

Also noted were ongoing limitations in the Plaintiff’s activities of daily living. For example, the Plaintiff testified that he was unable to drive his vehicle for an extended period of time because he could not hold the steering wheel with his injured left arm while operating the gear shift with his right hand. The Plaintiff also noted that he had difficulty using a riding mower as a result of his injuries. He also had to discontinue his hobbies of archery hunting, fishing, and working on automobiles for an entire year while he underwent these surgeries and attended physical therapy. The Plaintiff alleged ongoing pain and limitations up to the time of the filing of the Motion for Summary Judgment.

Believing that reasonable minds on the jury could differ on whether or not the Plaintiff sustained a “serious injury” under these facts, the court denied the Motion and allowed the entire case to proceed to a jury.

Anyone desiring a copy of this opinion may contact me at

I thank Attorney Paul Oven of the Moosic, Pennsylvania law firm of Dougherty, Leventhal & Price for bringing this case to my attention.

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