Friday, December 4, 2020

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Addresses Standards For Granting New Trial on Damages


In the case of Mader v. Duquesne Light, No. 33 WAP 2019 (Pa. Nov. 18, 2020) (Op. by Todd, J.), the court addressed whether a Plaintiff was entitled to a new trial on damages in a personal injury case.
According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was working on a project at a home and, in the course of his work, a metal ladder of his came into contact with an electric powerline and the Plaintiff was electrocuted and sustained personal injuries as a result. 

The Plaintiff sued the owner of the powerline under allegations of negligence in maintaining the electric lines too close to the ground. 

At the conclusion of a trial by jury, the Defendant was found to be 60% negligent and the Plaintiff was 40% negligent. 

The Plaintiff filed a Motion for Post-Trial Relief requesting a new trial on the issue of damages. 

While the defense acknowledged that the Plaintiff was entitled to a new trial on the claim for damages for pain and suffering up through the date his wounds healed and for his disfigurement claims, the defense disputed that the Plaintiff was entitled to a new trial on future non-economic damages, or either past or future lost earnings. 

The trial court granted the Plaintiff’s request for a new trial on all damages.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this decision agreed with the Pennsylvania Superior Court that the trial court had abused its discretion in ordering a new trial on all damages. 

In its decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated that it was considering the limits on a trial court’s discretion to order a new trial on all damages where the jury’s award on some of the damages alleged was based upon stipulations and/or was otherwise unimpeachable.

As stated, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court asserted that the trial court should have only granted a limited new trial with regards to only certain damages and not with respect to all of the damages that were in issue.


Anyone wishing to review a copy of the Majority Opinion may click this LINK.  

Justice Mundy's Dissenting Opinion can be viewed HERE.

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