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MORRIS v. PECKYNO (03/17/64)

March 17, 1964

MORRIS
v.
PECKYNO, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 227, April T., 1963, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Washington, county, May T., 1960, No. 225, in case of Joanne G. Morris et al. v. Charles Peckyno. Order reversed.

COUNSEL

August L. Sismondo, for appellant.

Paul N. Barna, with him Paul N. Barna, Jr., and Barna and Barna, for appellees.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Ervin, Wright, Woodside, Watkins, Montgomery, and Flood, JJ.

Author: Wright

[ 202 Pa. Super. Page 491]

OPINION BY WRIGHT, J.

On March 1, 1960, at about 3:20 P.M., on Phillips Street in the Borough of Speers, Washington, County, Pennsylvania, there was a collision between motor vehicles operated by Mrs. Joanne G. Morris and Charles Peckyno. Mrs. Morris and her husband, Robert C. Morris, instituted a trespass action which resulted in a verdict in favor of the wife-plaintiff in the sum of $1,000.00, and a verdict in favor of the husband-plaintiff in the sum of $2,000.00. The plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial on the ground that the verdicts were inadequate. The court below granted a new trial limited to the issue of damages. The defendant has appealed.

The record discloses that the motor vehicle operated by Mrs. Morris was proceeding back of a school bus, and was being followed by appellant's motor vehicle. When the school bus stopped to discharge passengers, the Morris vehicle also halted and was struck in the rear by appellant's vehicle. All three vehicles were traveling at a low rate of speed and the collision was not a violent one, as is evidenced by the comparatively slight amount of property damage. The real issue at the trial was the nature and extent of the injuries suffered by the wife-plaintiff. The trial judge charged that the "only items of damages to which Mrs. Morris may be entitled is that of compensation for the pain, suffering, inconvenience and suffering that she has had to endure and will have to endure in the future". The items of damages submitted to the jury with regard to the husband's claim were medical treatment, x-rays and appliances, such as a corset and brace, household help, car damage, and compensation "for the impairment of the value of his wife's services and companionship".

[ 202 Pa. Super. Page 492]

As detailed in appellees' brief, the out of pocket expenses totaled $1,467.34. The court below was of the opinion that the verdict of $2,000.00 in favor of the husband "might be considered as fair and reasonable", but concluded that the verdict of $1,000.00 in favor of the wife "was totally inadequate and shocked the sense of justice of the court with respect thereto". The new trial was granted as to both plaintiffs.

The recurring problem here presented has been the subject of many appellate pronouncements well summarized in 15 Am.Jur., Damages, ยง 231, as follows: "As a rule, a verdict in an action for a personal tort may be set aside as inadequate when, and only when, it is so inadequate as to indicate passion, prejudice, partiality, or corruption, or that the jury disregarded the instructions of the court, or in some instances, where there was a vital misapprehension or mistake on the part of the jury, or where it clearly appears from uncontradicted contradicted evidence that the amount of the verdict bears no reasonable relation to the loss suffered by the plaintiff, or, according to some of the cases, where, otherwise, there has been an evident failure of justice to the plaintiff, or where the award is so inadequate that it should not be permitted to stand. Generally, a verdict will not be disturbed merely on account of the smallness of the damages awarded or because the reviewing court would have awarded more".

Our review of this record indicates that the amount of the verdict for the wife was obviously a compromise. As aptly stated by Mr. Justice BOK in Elza v. Chovan, 396 Pa. 112, 152 A.2d 238: "There should be nothing difficult about a decision to grant a new trial for inadequacy: the injustice of the verdict should stand forth like a beacon". So long as the verdict bears a reasonable resemblance to the damages proved, it ...


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