Appeal, No. 143, March T., 1957, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1952, No. 3196, in case of City Products Corporation v. Bennett Brothers, Inc. Order reversed and judgment entered for defendant.
William A. Challener, Jr., for appellant.
J. Thomas Hoffman, with him William J. Lappe and Stone & McCandless, for appellee.
Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Chidsey, Arnold, Jones and Cohen, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ARNOLD
In this action of assumpsit (sounding in tort) the jury returned a verdict for defendant and the court entered judgment thereon after refusal of plaintiff's motion for new trial. One of court on banc having died before the opinion was rendered, the judgment was set aside and a reargument had. New trial was then awarded, and defendant now appeals. The award of new trial was on the ground that "the ends of justice require that this case be tried a second time"; although the court observed in its opinion that "We also believe, which we agree is nothing but dictum, that the verdict of the jury was capricious."
The only evidence was that of plaintiff; but the verdict was for the defendant. From an examination of the record, we conclude that the action of the court below in awarding a new trial must be held to be an abuse of its discretion.
"Where the reason assigned for the grant of a new trial involves the exercise of discretion, ordinarily the order of the trial court will not be interfered with, in the absence of palpable abuse of power: Class & Nachod
Brewing Co. v. Giacobello, 277 Pa. 530, 121 A. 333, cited with approval in Belletiere v. Philadelphia, supra. But as stated by Chief Justice MAXEY in Jones v. Williams et al., 358 Pa. 559, 58 A.2d 57, P. 564: 'While this Court usually supports the action of the trial court in granting or refusing a new trial we do not entirely abdicate our reviewing functions in such cases. This Court, too, has the duty to determine from the record whether or not the jury's verdict was so contrary to the evidence as to shock one's sense of justice and to make the award of a new trial imperative so that right may be given another opportunity to prevail.' This quotation was repeated with approval in Decker v. Kulesza, 369 Pa. 259, 263, 85 A.2d 413. ...
"It is only where such discretion has been exercised capriciously, arbitrarily, improvidently or has been palpably abused that we will reverse. A trial court, however, must give reasons for its action, otherwise an appellate court would be unable to review such action. Mere conclusions such as 'interests of justice' are insufficient. All judicial process necessarily is in the interest of justice. Such conclusion, in the absence of amplification, could well serve as a cloak or shield for abused judicial discretion.
"Since the learned court below in the present case failed to give its reasons for granting defendant's motion for new trial, stating only its conclusion that 'the interests of justice require a retrial', we are obliged to examine the entire record to determine whether any valid reason exists for disturbing the jury's verdict: Belletiere v. Philadelphia, 367 Pa. 638, 81 A.2d 857; Carroll v. Pittsburgh, 368 Pa. 436, 84 A.2d ...