Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Verdict Overturned As Excessive


The non-precedential decision of Kimble v. Laser Spine Institute, No. 617 EDA 2019 (Pa. Super. April 9, 2020 Nichols, J., Murray, J., and Colins, J.) (Mem. Op. by Murray, J.)(Nichols, J., Dissenting), arose out of a case in which a $10 million dollar verdict was entered in a medical malpractice matter.  The Pennsylvania Superior Court remanded the case for a new trial on the issue of damages based upon a finding that the verdict may have been excessive under the case presented.

The appellate court faulted the trial court for allegedly not fully examining the evidence in the record against the applicable shocks the consciousness standard of review.

Significantly, the appellate court also appeared to overturn the verdict below, in part, based upon a finding that the reversal was appropriate after comparing the verdict in this case to verdicts in other cases.

The decision is also noteworthy in its reaffirmation that trial court judges and appellate court judges will look for and rely upon waivers of appellate issues in order to preserve the validity trial court rulings during the course of a trial.

For example, this case provides the valuable lesson that counsel should not only submit proposed points for charge but should also seek out concrete rulings from the trial court on whether or not the trial court judge is granting or denying such proposed points for charge.

In this case, propose points for charges were submitted but the trial court generally noted that it only used standard suggested jury instructions.  No ruling was requested or made on certain proposed points for charge that were submitted for the court's review.  On appeal, any issues raised with respect to these proposed points for charge were found to have been waived as there was no concrete trial court decision granting or denying these proposed points.

In another example of the court looking for and finding a waiver of certain issues on appeal, this decision is additionally notable for the lesson it provides that, in order to confirm the right to pursue a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict at the conclusion of a trial, a defendant should (1) submit a proposed point for charge for a binding instruction in favor of the defense, (2) move for a non-suit at the close of the Plaintiff's case, and (3) move for a directed verdict at the close of the entire case in order to pursue a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

Source:  Article - "Pa. Appeals Court Slashes Award;  Finds Jury Went Too Far With $10 Million Dollar Verdict" by Max Mitchell in the Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 9, 2020).

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