No. 114 April Term, 1978, Appeal from the Judgment Entered on July 21, 1977 of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, at No. 21 September Term, 1976, Civil Action-Law.
R. Charles Thomas, Meadville, for appellant.
Paul D. Shafer, Jr., Meadville, for appellees.
Hoffman, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
[ 262 Pa. Super. Page 90]
Appellant contends that the lower court erred in allowing the jury to assess damages for appellee's personal injuries without any expert medical evidence that these injuries were caused by appellant's admitted negligence. We agree, and therefore, reverse and remand the case for a new trial limited to damages.
On November 6, 1974, appellee was stopped in traffic waiting to make a left-hand turn when appellant drove his vehicle into the rear end of appellee's vehicle. Appellant admitted liability, and the case went on trial on February 22, 1977, on the issue of damages only. Among the items of damages appellee sought to recover were medical bills and pain and suffering for sclerosis of her sacroiliac joints.
Dr. William R. McWhirter, M.D., who testified for appellee, was the sole medical expert called. He testified as follows: He first examined appellee two days after the accident. Appellee complained of pain, numbness, and weakness in her left arm, left lower back, and left buttock. There were no objective signs of injury except for loss of motion; x-rays taken of appellee were negative. A second examination on November 27, 1974, revealed the same subjective symptoms, plus muscle spasms along the spine. Dr. McWhirter's diagnosis was that appellee had an acute cervical strain and lower back strain caused by the automobile accident. However, these problems cleared up in a short while.
[ 262 Pa. Super. Page 91]
An examination of appellee by Dr. McWhirter on January 22, 1975, revealed that appellee was no longer suffering from the strain which had been earlier diagnosed, but appellee still complained of pain in her left lower back and left buttock. A further examination showed that the pain was being caused by sclerosis of the left sacroiliac joint, which is an inflammation and hardening of the bone. X-rays now confirmed sclerosis of both sacroiliac joints, especially the left. This was the first time that this injury appeared on any x-rays taken of appellee. Dr. McWhirter examined appellee six times over the next seven months, with each examination revealing that appellee's continued pain was caused by the sclerosis. Prescribed medication was able to control the pain to a degree. Dr. McWhirter's final diagnosis on October 6, 1975, was that appellee's sclerosis, while not permanent, would remain for an indefinite period of time causing intermittent pain.
Prior to the accident, appellee was a healthy woman with no history of lower back pain or injuries. Sacroiliac sclerosis is not a natural body process. However, Dr. McWhirter could not offer an opinion on what caused appellee's condition. On direct examination, he testified:
"Q. Doctor, is there any way you can tell what caused that inflammation of ...