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JEAN FRANCIS STOKAN v. JAMES TURNBULL (11/22/76)

decided: November 22, 1976.

JEAN FRANCIS STOKAN, A MINOR, BY HER PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, MICHAEL R. STOKAN, ET AL.
v.
JAMES TURNBULL, APPELLEE, V. AGNES STOKAN, APPELLANT



COUNSEL

Charles Kirshner, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Raymond H. Conaway, Pittsburgh, Walter Faderewski, McKeesport, for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Jacobs, J., files a dissenting opinion in which Hoffman, J., joins.

Author: Van Der Voort

[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 442]

This appeal arises from an action to recover damages for personal injuries and property damage arising from an automobile accident which occurred June 18, 1971, at the intersection of Routes 30 and 48 in North Versailles Township, Allegheny County. Route 30 is a four lane highway running in an easterly and westerly direction at its intersection with Route 48, while the latter is an intersecting north-south highway. The intersection is controlled by a traffic light which did not have left turn arrows. At the time of the accident, the signal was green for traffic proceeding east and west on Route 30.

Both cars were on Route 30, one driven by Agnes Stokan headed west and the other driven by James Turnbull headed east. Agnes Stokan was in the process of making a left-hand turn from Route 30 onto Route 48 when her car was struck by the approaching vehicle operated by James Turnbull.

Both cars were damaged and two passengers in the Stokan car, Jean and Maryann Stokan, younger sisters of Agnes Stokan, were injured. Maryann Stokan suffered a severe concussion which rendered her unconscious for ten days and lacerations and contusions of the face, right shoulder, right hip, right hand and left knee. Jean Stokan sustained abrasions of the arms, legs and forehead in addition to cervical pain.

According to the Stokan testimony, their car stopped at the intersection for several seconds before making its left-hand turn, the left-hand turn signal of their car

[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 443]

    turned on. Agnes Stokan, the driver, observed the oncoming Turnbull car some 75 to 100 yards away, but noted that it was in the left-hand lane and signaling a left-hand turn. On that assurance, the Stokan car made its left-hand turn and was struck by the oncoming Turnbull car.

The Turnbull account of the accident is that as their car approached the intersection, it was being driven in the right rather than the left-hand lane and was not signaling for a left-hand turn. Turnbull testified that he was driving 40 to 42 miles an hour. Another eyewitness estimated his speed at 35 miles an hour; the legal limit was 40. Turnbull did not see the Stokan car until he was about 25 feet from the intersection. At that point in time, the Stokan car made its left-hand turn and pulled in front of the Turnbull vehicle, but Turnbull was not able to avoid the collision due to his close proximity to the Stokan car when he first observed it.

In the litigation which resulted, (a) the injured Stokan girls, by Michael R. Stokan as their parent and guardian, sued James Turnbull, driver of the oncoming car, for compensation for their injuries; (b) the parents sued Turnbull for reimbursement for medical expenses and damages; and (c) Catherine M. Stokan, the mother, sued him for damages to the Stokan car. James Turnbull named Agnes Stokan as an additional defendant and claimed reimbursement from her for damages to his car.

The jury returned verdicts (a) in favor of the parents for the exact amount of the medical bills incurred on behalf of their minor daughters ($1,735 and $45) and (b) in favor of Catherine Stokan for the property damage done to the Stokan vehicle ($800), (c) but a verdict of nothing was returned for the pain, suffering and inconvenience of the minor daughters, all awards against Agnes Stokan, but no verdict against James Turnbull. Turnbull, in turn, was awarded a verdict against Agnes Stokan for damage to his car ($966.10).

[ 243 Pa. Super. Page 444]

Post-trial motions followed, presented on behalf of the Stokan minor girls, their parents and Agnes Stokan, each seeking a new trial and Agnes Stokan a judgment N.O.V. as well. The court below awarded Jean and Maryann Stokan, acting by their father-guardian, a new trial against Agnes Stokan but not Turnbull, and limited the new trial solely to the issue of damages. Agnes Stokan's motions for a new trial and judgment N.O.V. were denied. Agnes Stokan appeals, seeking a new trial on all issues and against all parties.

It is clear that there must be a new trial. A verdict against Agnes Stokan in favor of her parents for the exact amount of the medical bills incurred on behalf of her minor sisters, but with a verdict of nothing for their pain, suffering and inconvenience is both inadequate and inconsistent. Whether the verdict is a compromise between liability and damage we have no way of knowing. It is clear, however, that there was no rational basis for a determination that the injuries were inconsequential and, consequently, not compensable. There is no testimony or contention that either of the injured girls was negligent in any way. Consequently, Jean and Maryann Stokan, acting by their father and guardian, are entitled to a new trial.

In a similar situation, it was ruled in Pascarella v. Pittsburgh Railways Co., 389 Pa. 8, 13, 131 A.2d 445, 447 (1957);

"Since the jury found that the parents of Joyce Long and Mary Pascarella were entitled to reimbursement for monies expended for medical bills incurred on account of injuries sustained by their daughters, there can be no reasonable explanation for denying a return to the girls themselves for those same injuries. Once a jury imposes legal liability on a responsible party they may not wilfully or ...


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