injuries received in the accident, -- a total of $ 2,800.35.
The jury returned a verdict for the wife plaintiff in the sum of $ 2,000, and for the husband plaintiff in the sum of $ 3,000. The husband plaintiff thus received less than $ 200 for loss of consortium.
We agree with the plaintiffs that these verdicts are patently inadequate. The defendant makes light of the wife plaintiff's injuries and speaks of her efforts to obtain relief in a spirit of restrained levity: 'There is no doubt that from the time of the accident until the time of trial she attempted every sort of medical treatment she could find except 'blood-letting' and a few other medieval remedies. She went from doctor to doctor, traction to more traction, hospital to hospital and physio-therapist to physiotherapist.' We think the damage to the husband plaintiff's automobile, alone, might be sufficient evidence of the severity of the impact which caused the wife plaintiff's injuries and resulted in her present condition.
Defendant's learned counsel also states that 'the pattern finally develops of a neurotic, emotionally disturbed woman who has exaggerated her complaints and who is attributing all of her miseries, aches and pains to this accident * * *.' He advanced a strikingly similar argument in Alexander v. Knight, 25 Pa.Dist. & C.R.2d 649 (Phila.Co.1961), with reference to a plaintiff who had likewise suffered a whiplash injury in a rear-end automobile collision. We think the Court's language granting a new trial for inadequacy, is equally appropriate here (p. 659):
'We are satisfied that the jury in this case was unable to comprehend or refused to comprehend the fact that hysterical symptomatology does not mean feigning or malingering; that hysterically derived pain is quite real to the patient. A defendant is not relieved of responsibility because his victim is of a neurotic predisposition. A jury, in its wisdom, may well be penurious in its award, but we could not permit a jury verdict to stand where it represented an apparent misunderstanding as to the nature and reality of injury prolonged by emotional problems; from such misunderstanding came prejudice and error.'
See Alexander v. Knight, 197 Pa.Super. 79, 177 A.2d 142 (1962), affirming, per curiam, on the opinion of Judge Waters.
We recognize, of course, that it is not for us to usurp the functions of the jury. However, careful consideration of the evidence persuades us that the verdicts are patently insufficient, and leaves us with the clear conviction that the jury must have been influenced by partiality, passion or prejudice, or by some misconception of the law or the evidence. The grant of a new trial is, therefore, fully justified. Hammaker v. Watts Twp., 71 Pa.Super. 554, 558 (1919). 'The power to set aside a verdict on the ground of inadequacy may be exercised whenever it appears to the court below that the amount is patently insufficient,' Schwartz v. Jaffe, 324 Pa. 324, 327, 188 A. 295, 296 (1936).
The power to order a new trial as to damages only must be 'exercised with caution.' Rosa v. City of Chester, Pennsylvania, 278 F.2d 876 (3rd Cir. 1960). The Court went on to state (p. 883):
'Consequently, when a jury's verdict is obviously the result of a compromise on the questions of liability and damages, it is considered unjust to order a new trial on damages only. Southern Ry. Co. v. Madden, 4 Cir., 1956, 235 F.2d 198, certiorari denied 352 U.S. 953, 77 S. Ct. 328, 1 L. Ed. 2d 244; see Schuerholz v. Roach, 4 Cir., 1932, 58 F.2d 32, certiorari denied Scheurholz v. Roach, 287 U.S. 623, 53 S. Ct. 78, 77 L. Ed. 541; cf. Gasoline Products Co. v. Champlin Refining Co., (283 U.S. 494, 51 S. Ct. 513, 75 L. Ed. 1188), supra. On the other hand if the error compelling the reversal relates solely to the damage question, the new trial will be restricted to that question. Thompson v. Camp, 6 Cir., 1948, 167 F.2d 733, certiorari denied 335 U.S. 824, 69 S. Ct. 48, 93 L. Ed. 378.'
There was no basis in the evidence for a compromise on the questions of liability and damages. The error compelling a new trial relates solely to the damage question. Nor, in our view, was there any room for a compromise arising out of the damage issue alone. The new trial, therefore, should be limited to the issue of damages.
NOW, December 21st, 1964, it is ordered that:
1. The judgments heretofore entered be, and they are, set aside;
2. Plaintiffs' motion for a new trial limited to the issue of damages be, and it is, granted.
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