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LAYMAN v. DOERNTE (12/05/61)

December 5, 1961

LAYMAN
v.
DOERNTE, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 225, March T., 1961, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Jan. T., 1958, No. 550, in case of Clement P. Layman v. Mary Jane Doernte, administratrix of estate of Harry W. Doernte, deceased, trading and doing business as Doernte Bus Lines. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Donald W. Bebenek, with him Meyer, Darragh, Buckler & Bebenek, for appellant.

Edgar P. Herrington, Jr., with him Vincent R. Smith, for appellee.

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

Author: Musmanno

[ 405 Pa. Page 357]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO.

On June 17, 1957, Clement P. Layman, the plaintiff in this case, was seriously injured when the bus in which he was riding was struck in the rear by another bus. In the ensuing trespass action which he brought against the Doernte Bus Lines,*fn* owner of both buses, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $25,000. The defendant seeks a new trial on the sole asserted ground that the verdict is excessive and should not be allowed to stand.

When bus No. 1, in which the plaintiff was a passenger, was struck by bus No. 2, the plaintiff was thrown with great force against the back of the seat which he occupied, his head coming into violent contact with the handrail above the seat. This whiplash blow fractured the plaintiff's sixth and seventh vertebrae and, in consequence, he sustained disabilities and incurred ailments from which he had not recovered up to the time of the trial in October, 1960.

Immediately after the accident the plaintiff was treated by a chiropractor who later recommended him to Dr. Frank Pantalone, an orthopedic surgeon and physician. Dr. Pantalone, who examined Clement Layman

[ 405 Pa. Page 358]

    on July 20, 1957, testified: "... my first examination showed that the couldn't turn his neck well from one side to the other or forward or backwards. Whenever I pressed in back of his neck, he would have a lot of pain and tenderness. The muscles in the back of his neck would be as hard as rocks. There would be expansion and rigidity. He had spasms in the region of his neck... When I would press on his neck, it would shoot the pain through his neck and between the shoulder blades. He had weakness of both of his shoulder regions and his arms. The pain went all the way down to the bottom of his chest in the back."

The doctor found that the plaintiff had "two definite fractures or broken bones in two of the spinal processes." He recommended physiotherapy, a cervical collar, a cervical pillow, a brace for his back, muscle stimulation and home traction.

The plaintiff testified that he suffered from constant headaches. He described the symptoms: "You would swear your head was going to bust." He said further that his head "gets full of knots." When his wife was asked as to Layman's sleeping habits after the accident she replied: "Twisting and turning and groaning."

The doctor testified the plaintiff received physiotherapy 144 times; he saw him at his office about 175 times. Even after three years of medication and treatment, the plaintiff's prognosis was not a bright one: "... I am of the opinion after having examined him and followed him not once or twice but for three (3) years, I am convinced in my opinion he will never get completely better. He will maintain the disability that he now has for the rest of his life. The x-rays show instead of getting better as a result of ...


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