Monday, May 2, 2016

Zero Verdict for Pain and Suffering Upheld Even When Medical Expenses Awarded

In the case of Zielke v. Mullen, PICS Case No. 16-0406 (C.P. Del. Co. Dec. 18, 2015 Green, J.), the court issued a Rule 1925(a) Opinion asserting that it had properly denied the Plaintiff’s Motion for Post Trial Relief and/or Request for a New Trial on the issue of non-economic damages after a trial in which the jury entered a zero award for the Plaintiff’s non-economic damages claims in a slip and fall case.  

According to the Opinion, the jury ruled in favor of the Plaintiff on the liability issues but declined to award any non-economic damages.  

In support of its decision to deny the Plaintiff’s request for post-trial relief, the court cited to case of Davis v. Mullen, as controlling.  In Davis, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the denial of a new trial after jury’s verdict awarding zero non-economic damages.   The court in Davis emphasized deference to a jury’s verdict and confirmed the possibility that a jury can award medical expenses without awarding damages for pain and suffering in appropriate circumstances.  

In this Zielke case, the court noted that the jury, as the ultimate finder-of-fact, was free to believe or disbelieve any of the evidence presented.  

The trial court also rejected the Plaintiff’s argument that there should be a per se rule barring juries from awarding medical damages without a corresponding award for pain and suffering.   The trial court in Zielke noted that such an argument was rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Davis v. Mullen decision.  

Moreover, in this case, the trial court stated that the evidence at trial regarding the Plaintiff’s numerous prior injuries and medical conditions gave the trial court a reasonable basis to conclude that the jury either found that the Plaintiff did not experience pain and suffering as a result of the subject incident, or that any alleged pain and suffering was a result of the Plaintiff’s pre-existing conditions.  

A copy of this case may be secured by calling the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service of the Pennsylvania Law Weekly at 1-800-276-7427 and paying a small fee.  

Source:  “Digest of Recent Opinions.”   Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 5, 2016).  

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