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DICHIACCHIO v. ROCKCRAFT STONE PRODUCTS COMPANY (01/20/67)

decided: January 20, 1967.

DICHIACCHIO, APPELLANT,
v.
ROCKCRAFT STONE PRODUCTS COMPANY



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas No. 5 of Philadelphia County, June T., 1960, No. 2778, in case of Joseph DiChiacchio v. Rockcraft Stone Products Company.

COUNSEL

Sheldon L. Albert, with him James E. Beasley, for appellant.

John J. O'Brien, Jr., for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Mr. Justice Jones, Mr. Justice Eagen, Mr. Justice O'Brien and Mr. Justice Roberts concur in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell.

Author: Musmanno

[ 424 Pa. Page 78]

On February 20, 1960, Joseph DiChiacchio, 42 years of age, was walking along Broad Street in Philadelphia when a plank, measuring 2 X 8 feet, crashed from a third-story height down on to his head and struck him to the ground. The force of the impact was such that the cap on one of his teeth and fillings from other teeth were forced out of his mouth which, with his nose, emitted blood. His left eye was swollen and he suffered other injuries, to be referred to later.

He brought suit in trespass against Rockcraft Stone Products Company which had constructed the scaffolding from which the plank had become detached and received a verdict in the sum of $25,000.*fn1 Rockcraft moved for a new trial on the grounds of excessiveness in the verdict. The court ordered that damages in excess of $12,000 be remitted within 30 days; otherwise a new trial would follow as to damages alone. The plaintiff refused to file a remittitur and the case is before us on appeal as to whether the law requires a new trial.

The defendant admitted liability for the accident so that the only issue for our consideration is the reasonableness of the verdict of $25,000.

On the day of the accident the plaintiff was taken to the St. Agnes Hospital for concussion of the brain, cuts on his face and over the left eye, headaches, dizziness and nervousness. He remained in the hospital for

[ 424 Pa. Page 79]

    a week and then was taken home where he remained for another week. At the end of two weeks following the accident he returned to his work as a carpenter. When asked why he returned to his occupation he replied: "Well, I had a family to support and I was afraid of losing my job."

Dr. Joseph Cava, who cared for him at the hospital, continued to treat him for six months further for headaches, dizziness, and nervousness, sequels to the original diagnosis of concussion and "consistent with post concussion syndrome." In August, 1960, Dr. Cava referred the plaintiff to Henry Shenkin, a neurosurgeon, for additional care. Dr. Shenkin agreed with Dr. Cava that the plaintiff suffered from a post concussion syndrome with anxiety and nervousness. These ailments particularly affected the plaintiff in his carpentering work which required him to climb and descend ladders. During these activities he was often assailed by dizziness and, while working at the top of a ladder, he suffered from a constant fear of falling.

On October 9, 1962, he actually fell from the top of a ladder while hanging cabinets and was treated by Dr. Cava for the injury sustained in the fall, plus the continuing dizziness and headache. The trial judge, in describing the plaintiff's disabilities, said: "Even at the time of trial, which was more than five years after the injury, he [the plaintiff] told of having headaches several times each week. His testimony was that he was told that there was no medical aid available for his problems. He stated that at times the left side of his face and left eye feel numb, and that he still becomes dizzy when he is on a ladder while working. Plaintiff's wife testified that before his injury, he got along well with his children, but that since then he has not been patient with them, becomes easily upset, and is disturbed when driving an automobile. A specialist in internal medicine, who treated plaintiff,

[ 424 Pa. Page 80]

    testified that plaintiff's headaches and dizziness were due to the concussion of the brain that he had suffered. This physician, having made a diagnosis of post concussion syndrome with an anxiety, nervousness, referred plaintiff to a neurosurgeon. In 1962, while working on a ladder, plaintiff got dizzy, lost his balance and fell, thus hurting his shoulder. In the opinion of the specialist in internal ...


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