Whether or not the hernia was a proximate result of the accident was sharply disputed. From the size of the verdict, it must be assumed that the jury resolved this issue in favor of plaintiffs.
There was sufficient evidence to sustain this conclusion. When the Wirtz car crashed into the front part of plaintiffs' car, Mrs. Rowe was catapulted partially through the windshield. Her abdomen violently struck the dashboard. Almost immediately thereafter the Axelson car rammed into the rear part of the Rowe car, which collision forcibly returned Mrs. Rowe to the seat. There she remained for a few minutes while her husband tried to stop the blood gushing from her cut face. Immediately after the accident she said to her husband, 'I feel like I am maybe internally injured'. When she stepped out of the car she felt a sharp pain in the right side of the lower abdomen and a dropping sensation. She did not have a hernia prior to the accident. She complained promptly of the pain in her abdomen, and a week later her doctor confirmed the presence of the hernia. This was ample evidence to support a finding of the jury that the accident was a proximate cause of the hernia. Expert medical opinion was not necessary. Schultz v. City of Pittsburgh, 370 Pa. 271, 88 A.2d 74; Tabuteau v. London Guarantee & Accident Co., 351 Pa. 183, 40 A.2d 396; Utzman v. Pennsylvania Rubber Co., 96 Pa. Super. 463.
Defendant claims that the court erred in overruling the objection to the hypothetical question propounded to Dr. Connolly and refusing to strike the answer thereto.
The question and the answer thereto were as follows:
'Q. Doctor, I will pose to you a hypothetical question. If a person was in an automobile accident, and the person was of the physical build and characteristic of Mrs. Rowe, and if she sustained a forceful trauma as a result of being thrown against a member of the car; and if she simultaneously with sustaining that trauma felt pain on the right side, and also felt as if something on her right side dropped; and that that pain emanated about the right lower abdomen, and radiated into the upper part of the right thigh; based upon that premise, Doctor, would you say such a person would be susceptible to traumatic hernia?' A. I would say that is possible.
'Q. Would you say it was probable, Doctor? A. See, these are subjective symptoms on the part of an individual, and -- I would say it could be probable.'
Defendant contends there was no evidence that Mrs. Rowe felt pain simultaneously with sustaining the trauma. It is true that on cross-examination she said she first felt pain in her abdomen upon stepping out of the car which was 10 or 15 minutes after the collision. But there was also evidence that her abdomen violently struck the dashboard, and almost immediately she complained to her husband that she felt that perhaps she had been internally injured. There was evidence that she was in the state of shock which usually follows in the train of an automobile accident with profuse bleeding. At the trial we considered the word 'simultaneously' not to mean at the exact moment when the abdomen struck the dashboard, but at the time of the accident, which could fairly include the 10 or 15 minutes that followed when she was recovering from the stunning shock and was becoming aware of the sources of her pain. It is the court's opinion that the evidence fairly tended to justify the hypothetical question and defendant was not prejudiced thereby.
Finally we think the court was justified in refusing to withdraw a juror because one of the jurors was observed talking to the husband plaintiff at the water fountain of the floor of the courthouse where the courtroom is located. The matter was carefully investigated and the court was and is still convinced that the conversation was not about the case and that the event produced no appreciable impact upon the juror which could reasonably be expected to cause bias or prejudice in the mind of the juror for or against either side.
An appropriate order will be entered granting a new trial unless a remittitur is filed.