Friday, December 7, 2018

Superior Court Gives Lessons on Preserving Objections to Verdict Slip at Trial (Non-Precedential)

In the slip and fall case of Showers v. Sam’s East, No. 810 EDA 2018 (Pa. Super. Nov. 6,2018 Olson, J., Panella, J., and McLaughlin, J.) (Op. by Olson, J.)(Non-Precedential), the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a Chester County jury’s $7,481.00 verdict in favor of the Plaintiff in a case where the Plaintiff alleged injuries as a result of a slip and fall on water in a Sam’s Club store.

The Plaintiff asserted that they were entitled to a new trial because the jury only awarded the medical expenses claimed and failed to award damages for pain and suffering. 

The Superior Court rejected this argument and agreed with the trial court that the Plaintiffs had failed to object at trial to the finalized verdict sheet, which did not require the jury to require a breakdown of the damages awarded.   

The court rejected the Plaintiff's argument that they had preserved their appellate issues by submitting a proposed Verdict Slip and had argued for the same at a Charging Conference with the Court.  However, the Superior Court noted that the Charging Conference was not transcribed.

The Superior Court also noted that, after the trial court instructed the jury, the trial court asked the parties if there were any issues with the instructions and the appellants "acquiesced" and did not raise any objections.  See Op. at p. 5.

The Superior Court also rejected the Plaintiffs’ argument that the jury’s verdict neglected to address the pain and suffering claims.   The Plaintiffs asserted that the $7,481.00 figure represented the amount of medical expenses damages that the Plaintiffs had offered evidence of at the trial.    

The Superior Court noted that the trial court had instructed the jury on all of the available elements of damages.  The appellate court agreed with the trial court's assessment that there was nothing in the record to suggest that the lump sum award was only for medical expenses and that the jury could have possibly used the medical expenses evidence amount as a "guidepost."  See Op. at p. 7.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source:  Article by Zack Needles entitled “Court: Jury Did Not Neglect Pain, Suffering in Lump-Sum Verdict,”  Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Nov. 13, 2018).  

Commentary:  This decision goes to show that litigants should do everything necessary to preserve issues for appeal because both the trial court judge and the appellate court judges will, in almost every instance, first look to see if the issue raised has been preserved on the record.  

Therefore, don't feel sheepish asking for a court reporter at all stages of the trial or when placing objections on the record.  It is your job and duty to make these requests and objections. If the trial court judge gives you a hard time or an exasperated sigh, take a quick breath and politely stand your ground and make the request for a court reporter and/or state your objection clearly (and repeat it every time the issue comes up).  

Also, at the end of the trial and the end of the jury instructions when the trial court judge asks if any parties have any objections ask for a sidebar to state any new objections you may have.  If you do not have any objections, say, "Your Honor, I have no more objections other than the ones I have previously stated on the record and which I maintain at this time.  Thank you."

Remember, your client is counting on you as his or her spokesperson in the court of law.  Don't let him or her down. 

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