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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JEFFREY M. HOWARD AND JANE HOWARD (01/25/88)

decided: January 25, 1988.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, STATE POLICE, APPELLANT
v.
JEFFREY M. HOWARD AND JANE HOWARD, HIS WIFE, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County in the case of Jeffrey M. Howard and Jane Howard, his wife v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, State Police, No. A.D. 1985-23.

COUNSEL

Robert T. McDermott, Deputy Attorney General, with him, Frank J. Micale, Deputy Attorney General, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for appellant.

Elaine Specter, with her, Howard A. Specter, Specter & Buchwach, P.C., and Bruce L. Smith, for appellees.

Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 32]

The Pennsylvania State Police appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County sustaining a molded verdict for Jeffrey M. Howard and dismissing the State Police's motions for post-trial relief. We affirm.

The basic facts are not in dispute. On August 31, 1984, Trooper Sanford R. Porter, driving a state police vehicle, collided with Jeffrey M. Howard, badly injuring him, when Trooper Porter's vehicle went through a stop sign at the intersection of Canadohta Lake road and State Route 8. Trooper Porter's car had been the vehicle in a three-car state police convoy, en route to an emergency assignment in Warren, Pennsylvania.

The state police officers, not in immediate hot pursuit, were driving at a high rate of speed despite visibility difficulties from early morning fog and sun. Trooper Porter was not using his siren along Canadohta Lake road as he approached the intersection with Route 8.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Howard, awarding Mr. Howard damages in the amount of $266,700.00, which the trial judge later molded to reflect

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 33]

    a payment of work loss benefits, under Mr. Howard's policy, of $15,000.00 and the plaintiff's willingness to accept the $250,000.00 statutory limit imposed in 42 Pa. C. S. ยง 8528(b). Pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. No. 238, the trial judge later added an additional $11,438.36 for delay damages, resulting in a molded verdict amount of $261,438.36.

The state police, in the post-trial motions, claimed entitlement to a compulsory non-suit or directed verdict and listed nine errors as a basis for a new trial. On July 23, 1986, the trial court denied the post-trial motions and sustained the molded verdict.

When reviewing a denial of a motion for a new trial, our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether there has been an error of law controlling the outcome of the case, or an abuse of discretion where the ruling turns on the weight of the evidence. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation v. ...


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