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STEIN v. MEYER

April 18, 1957

James STEIN
v.
Bertha K. MEYER, as Administratrix C.T.A., Theodore Meyer Estate and Bertha K. Meyer



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUSEN

This action for personal injuries, based on diversity of citizenship, is before the court for consideration of defendants' contention that they are entitled to a new trial after a verdict for plaintiff in the amount of $ 10,000.

The trial judge is of the opinion that defendants are entitled to a new trial because of the following remarks made to the jury by counsel for plaintiff in his closing speech, so that consideration of the other grounds stated in the motion for new trial are not necessary:

 'How much would you pay for a neurosis? How much would you pay to be afflicted with a condition that you couldn't hold cups or saucers, something that is going to be permanent? Would you take it for $ 5,000.? Would you take it for $ 50,000.00?' *fn1" (Page 1 of partial transcript.)

 Construing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, he had inhaled deleterious gas when working in an icebox as the result of the negligence of the defendant fumigator in failing to properly air out the icebox after fumigating it with the gas. Plaintiff had not lost any days of work, except the day on which he inhaled the gas when he was taken to the hospital and returned home at approximately 5:30 P.M. The medical testimony indicated that he had a neurosis involving loss of sleep, loss of appetite and weight, and lack of interest in recreational activities, which neurosis resulted from the inhalation of the gas. *fn2"

 In view of the lack of evidence that the inhalation of the gas was the proximate cause of any substantial neurotic effects, the principle long recognized by the Pennsylvania courts that it is error for counsel to make any suggestion to the jury of an arbitrary amount of damages for personal injuries is particularly applicable. In Joyce v. Smith, 1921, 269 Pa. 439, 112 A. 549, 550, defendant filed affidavits that plaintiff's counsel said in his argument to the jury, "I am asking for thousands of dollars for pain and suffering, and hundreds of dollars for the money he has expended." In ordering a new trial because of the use of such language, the court said, 269 Pa. at pages 442-443, 112 A. at page 550:

 The above-mentioned principle stated in the Joyce case is followed by the judges of this court, and it seems particularly applicable to the factual situation presented by this case.

 Furthermore, although the trial judge understands that he is not bound by the Pennsylvania cases on this point, *fn4" the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has emphasized that federal courts 'should not be astute to widen federal diversity jurisdiction.' McCoy v. Siler, 3 Cir., 1953, 205 F.2d 498, 500-501. *fn5" To permit plaintiff's counsel to refer to amounts selected by him in his closing argument to the jury in cases where pain, suffering, injury and inconvenience are the only items of damage, when such a course is not allowed in the state courts, would certainly have the result of expanding the diversity jurisdiction of this court and, particularly in a situation such as this, would '* * * substantially affect the enforcement of the right as given by the State.' *fn6"

 And Now, April 18, 1957, It Is Ordered that the judgment entered in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $ 10,000 on the verdict of the jury shall be set aside, that defendants' motion for new trial is granted, and that ...


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