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KRUSINSKI v. CHIODA (11/10/58)

November 10, 1958


Appeal, No. 238, March T., 1958, from order of Superior Court, April T., 1958, No. 89, reversing order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1955 A, No. 101, in case of Richard Krusinski, a minor, et al. v. John J. Chioda. Order reversed.


Theodore M. Tracy, with him Edward O. Spotts and George Y. Meyer, for appellants.

George M. Weis, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones and Cohen, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 394 Pa. Page 91]


The jury in this case returned money verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs, Richard Krusinski, Anna Krusinski, and Joseph Krusinski against John J. Chioda.

[ 394 Pa. Page 92]

The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County ordered a new trial on the ground of inadequacy of the verdicts. The defendant Chioda appealed to the Superior Court which reversed the order of the lower Court and affirmed the verdicts. We granted allocatur.

From the plaintiffs' evidence and the jury's verdict the following recital of facts is authorized. On the night of September 21, 1954, at about 11 o'clock, Joseph Krusinski, then 19 years of age, with his brother Richard, 14, in the front seat with him, was driving his Oldsmobile automobile westwardly on Irvine Street in Pittsburgh. As he arrived at a point opposite his home on the north side of Irvine Street, he proceeded to make an incomplete U turn which would allow him, facing toward the east, to park in front of his dwelling. He thus drove to the left or south side of the highway and then cut back sharply, heading for the north curb of Irvine. While doing this he noted that he could not negotiate the complete turn, which would enable him to be facing the east, because of another car already parked on the north side of Irvine. He stopped, right angularly, to the curb, to contemplate his next maneuver, particularly because he now saw a car coming from the west, and he wished to avoid any movement which could bring him into the path of this eastbound car. While momentarily in this stationary position he saw the lights of another car, only a couple of blocks away, bearing down on him from the east. It was travelling at a speed, later estimated by others, to be from 70 to 75 miles an hour. This speeding car (a Mercury, owned by Joseph J. Chioda) crashed into Joseph's car, demolishing its right center, and inflicting injuries on both Joseph and Richard.

[ 394 Pa. Page 93]

Richard and Joseph, acting through their mother-guardian, Anna Krusinski, brought suit against Chioda who, in turn, brought Joseph on the record as an additional defendant. By the time of the trial, Joseph had attained his majority, so that in all further proceedings he acted in his own name and right. Joseph's account of the accident was corroborated by the occupants of the car which, driven by Esther Chernotowich, was travelling eastwardly at the time of the collision. Miss Chernotowich and the four passengers all testified that Joseph's car was at a standstill just before the impact, and Miss Chernotowich testified further that Chioda's car was proceeding at a speed of from 70 to 75 miles an hour as it crashed into the stationary Oldsmobile.

It is inexplicable, except by concluding that Chioda was operating his car with a negligence which amounted almost to sheer recklessness, as to why he would drive directly ahead into an automobile broadside in his path and lighted up by its headlights and tail lights as well as by an overhead are light. Nor could Chioda himself offer any reasonable explanation as to why he did not see Joseph's car until he was about 20 feet from it, and then "it was too late to do anything."

Chioda testified that he was travelling between 30 and 35 miles per hour. When asked: "Can you tell us where he [Joseph] came from, or anything like that?" he replied: "No, I can't."

It was stipulated Joseph expended $753 to repair his car. His loss of wages and medical expenses amounted to $406.25 so that his out-of-pocket expenses totaled $1159.25. But, while the jury found Chioda negligent and Joseph free of negligence, it awarded Joseph only $950 in damages. This verdict was thus not only less than Joseph's monetary loss, but it gave no heed to the item of pain, suffering, and inconvenience,

[ 394 Pa. Page 94]

    and obviously ignored the doctor's testimony that Joseph had suffered a cerebral concussion, muscle pain and spasm, and that his back condition would "tend to become chronic." The doctor testified also that as a bricklayer, Joseph would have to wear "a belt or some elastic form of a brace to support his back while he was working."

In the case of Todd v. Bercini, 371 Pa. 605, 607, the jury awarded the plaintiff $2,070.43, the amount of the medical bill, but nothing for pain, suffering, and inconvenience, lost wages, or impairment of earning power. The trial court ordered a new trial because of inadequacy of verdict. The defendant appealed. In holding that the court had not abused its discretion in making this order, we said: "A trial is a systematized, organized procedure for determining the truth and awarding justice with precision, to the extent that precision can be ascertained through fallible human agencies. A trial is not to be a mere conscious approximation of reality. It is not the province of a jury to decide generally the issue presented to it for decision, in the spirit of boundless generosity or restrained benevolence. If Mrs. Todd was entitled to a verdict from the defendant because of the injuries he inflicted upon her as the result of his negligence, she was entitled to all that the law provides in such a case. And the items of pain, suffering and inconvenience, as well as loss of wages and impairment of earning power, are inevitable concomitants with grave injuries when suffered by a wage-earner. A jury may not eliminate pain from wounds when all human experience proves the existence of pain, and it may not withhold lost wages when the evidence in the case uncontradictedly establishes the loss of wages as the result of the negligence which they, the jury, have adjudicated against the responsible defendant. When it is apparent that

[ 394 Pa. Page 95]

    a jury by its verdict holds the defendant responsible for a whole loaf of bread, it may not then neglectfully, indifferently, or capriciously cut off a portion of that loaf as it hands it to the plaintiff."

The jury in this case sliced away even a larger portion of the loaf it passed over to Richard than the truncated one it handed to Joseph. Richard was sitting on the right-hand side of Joseph's car and thus received the full impact of the momentum of Chioda's car which crashed into it at 75 miles an hour. He not only sustained multiple bruises on chest, arms and legs, but his foot was so pinned in the wreckage that for over an hour he could not be extricated, being finally released only when an acetylene torch burned away the imprisoning metal. In the meantime he was suffering the pain and agony of a fractured jaw. The gravity of the fracture is evident from the doctor's testimony that 12 days were required to prepare the patient for the operation which resulted in the youth's mouth being wired and clamped for 58 days during which time he could take only liquids. Even at the time of the trial (32 months after the accident) Richard was still suffering from the effects of the broken jaw. The doctor testified: "We felt that there should be some reconstructive work, some prosthetic work done with both the upper and lower jaws, because ...

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