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BURGAN v. PITTSBURGH (05/25/53)

May 25, 1953

BURGAN
v.
PITTSBURGH, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 10, March T., 1953, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1949, No. 1240, in case of Harry P. Burgan v. City of Pittsburgh. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

James G. Legnard, Assistant City Solicitor, with him Anne X. Alpern, City Solicitor, for appellant.

John E. Evans, Jr., with him Evans, Ivory & Evans, for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 373 Pa. Page 609]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

On March 11, 1949, Harry P. Burgan, 70 years of age, while crossing Liberty Avenue in the City of Pittsburgh, was struck by one of the defendant city's motorcycles, which, travelling at the rate of 40 miles per hour, dragged him 400 feet, inflicting near-fatal injuries. In the ensuing lawsuit against the City of Pittsburgh, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $25,000. Upon defendant's motion for a new trial, asserting excessiveness in the verdict, the court below refused a new trial but reduced the amount of the verdict to $19,227.22. Judgment having been entered in that sum, an appeal was lodged in this Court.

The only question before us is whether the amount of the verdict should be further reduced. Dr. J. Huber Wagner, distinguished and veteran surgeon, testified at the trial that when the plaintiff arrived at the hospital, serious doubt was entertained as to whether he would survive the severe shock he had sustained. Dr. Wagner described the plaintiff's more extensive and serious injuries

[ 373 Pa. Page 610]

    as follows: (1) Tear or wound of the right side of the face which involved the right eyelid, leaving the eyeball exposed; (2) Fracture of the nose; (3) Severe laceration, or tear, of the inner side of the right arm; (4) Fracture of the upper third of the right tibia; (5) Open or compound fractures of the mid part of both the right tibia and fibula, with both bones (tibia and fibula) protruding from the skin, and with the fibula broken into five or six pieces; (6) Right elbow broken down, requiring a skin graft. An ulcer developed at the point of the graft and further operations were required; (7) Skin on the right leg severely lacerated requiring extensive skin graft; (8) Contusion in the right shoulder causing that area to become frozen; (9) Dirt imbedded in plaintiff's face and palms of both hands; (10) Loss of upper denture and unnumbered lower teeth.

The plaintiff underwent seven operations and received numerous blood transfusions. The operation on the right leg required the insertion of a bone screw and the application of a cast. Although a good union was developed at the site of the fracture, a crooked leg resulted. This deformity will be permanent.

The operation involving the face was described by the doctor: "... pigment, ashes, dirt, or what not, was ground into the skin. This was cut. It was torn up here... A piece of skin was taken from his forearm and put in his eye. You can see the dirt in his face was not completely removed. His condition didn't permit that." These facial injuries and surgical repair produced a permanent facial disfigurement.

The plaintiff was away from work for 11 months, sustaining a loss of earnings in the sum of $1980. He returned to his regular employment for the period from February 5, 1950 to April 30, 1951, when he was retired because of his age. The defendant contends ...


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