Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Pennsylvania Superior Court Provides Guidance to Trial Courts on What To Do (And What Not To Do) if Jury Returns a Zero Verdict

In the case of Avery v. Cercone, 2019 Pa. Super. 366 (Pa. Super. Dec. 23, 2019 Kunselman, J., Bender, J., and Musmanno, J.) (Op. by Kunselman, J.), the court reversed in part and vacated in part the lower court’s decision on the Plaintiff’s post-trial motions in a case in which the jury awarded damages for economic damages but zero dollars for the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering claim. 

The court reaffirmed the rule of law that a jury is always free to award zero dollars on a pain and suffering claim. However the court noted that, in some instances, such a verdict can be against the weight of the evidence, particular where the injury is not contested by the defense. 

The appellate court noted that the trial court erred by providing an additional jury instruction suggesting that the weight of the evidence did not support the jury’s initial verdict. Providing the jury with such an instruction invades the province of the jury. 

The Superior Court held that the trial court should have let the verdict stand and left it to the Plaintiff to file post-trial motions to challenge the verdict as being against the weight of the evidence. 

 As such, the revised verdict was found to be in error and was vacated. The case was remanded back to the trial court to determine whether the verdict was indeed against the weight of the evidence under the “shocks the judicial conscience” standard. 

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

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