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JOSEPH JAMES ARIONDO v. KEITH ALAN MUNSEY AND COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/06/89)

decided: January 6, 1989.

JOSEPH JAMES ARIONDO
v.
KEITH ALAN MUNSEY AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLANT. PENNY SUE CONNER V. KEITH ALAN MUNSEY AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLANT. LORRAINE GENTILE, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF SALVATORE J. GENTILE, DECEASED V. KEITH ALAN MUNSEY AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLANT. PENNY SUE CONNER, APPELLANT V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, AND KEITH ALAN MUNSEY, APPELLEES. LORRAINE GENTILE, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF SALVATORE J. GENTILE, DECEASED, APPELLANT V. KEITH ALAN MUNSEY AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLEES. JOSEPH JAMES ARIONDO, APPELLANT V. KEITH ALAN MUNSEY AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLEES. PENNY SUE CONNER, APPELLANT V. KEITH ALAN MUNSEY AND COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLEES



Appeals from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, in the cases of Penny Sue Conner v. Keith Alan Munsey and The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, No. GD 84-9840; Joseph James Ariondo v. Keith Alan Munsey and The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, No. GD 85-11789, and Lorraine Gentile, Administratrix of the Estate of Salvatore J. Gentile, Deceased v. Keith Alan Munsey and The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, No. GD 85-22116, dated September 1, 1987, amended September 3, 1987, and dated December 30, 1987.

COUNSEL

Frank J. Micale, Deputy Attorney General, with him, Mark E. Garber, Chief, Tort Litigation Unit, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for appellant/appellee, Department of Transportation.

Thomas A. Berret, Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, for appellant/appellee, Penny Sue Conner.

Raymond J. Seals, for appellant/appellee, Lorraine Gentile, Administratrix of the Estate of Salvatore J. Gentile, Deceased.

Harold Gondelman, Gondelman, Baxter, Yatch & Trimm, for appellant/appellee, Joseph James Ariondo.

Arthur R. Gorr, Gorr, Dell & Loughney, with him, John W. Jordan IV, Grigsby, Gaca & Davies, P.C., for appellee, Keith Alan Munsey.

Judges Doyle and Barry, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry. Judges MacPhail and McGinley did not participate in the decision in this case. Judge Doyle concurs in the result only.

Author: Barry

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 478]

On December 29, 1983, Keith Alan Munsey was driving a moving van north on Route 28 in Shaler Township. His vehicle crossed over the center lines of the highway and hit a pick-up truck being driven in a southerly direction by Salvatore Gentile. Mr. Gentile was killed in that accident. His estate brought an action

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 479]

    against Munsey alleging negligent operation of his vehicle and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) alleging negligent design of the highway.

Munsey's van also hit a vehicle being driven in a southerly direction by Joseph Ariondo resulting in injuries to Ariondo and one of his passengers, Penny Sue Conner. Ariondo and Conner each brought actions against Munsey alleging negligent operation of his vehicle and DOT alleging negligent design of the highway.

On January 27, 1987, following a consolidated trial, the jury returned verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs in the following amounts: Estate of Gentile, $1,110,000.00 (Survival Action), $800,000.00 (Wrongful Death Action); Ariondo, $200,000.00 and Conner, $950,000.00. The verdicts also reflected that the jury found the defendant Munsey 65% causally negligent and DOT 35% causally negligent.

DOT filed motions for post trial relief in the form of a motion to mold the verdict, a motion for new trial and judgment n.o.v. Its motion to mold the verdict sought to reduce the jury's verdicts to reflect the limitation on damages set forth in Section 8528(b) of the Judicial Code (Code).*fn1 Its motion for new trial raised several allegations of error with respect to evidentiary rulings made by the trial court.

All of the plaintiffs filed motions for post trial relief. Their motions were in the form of motions to mold the verdict to find DOT and Munsey jointly and severally liable. The plaintiffs also filed petitions for delay damages.

On September 1, 1987, the trial court issued orders as follows. In the Estate of Gentile, (GD 85-22116) the

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 480]

    jury's verdict was molded to reflect the Code's limitation on damages. The survival action recovery was reduced to $250,000 and the wrongful death action recovery was reduced to $250,000. Additionally, the order awarded delay damages as against DOT in the amount of $26,232.82 in each action. Finally, DOT and Munsey were determined to be jointly and severally liable.

In Conner, (GD 84-9840) the jury's verdict was molded to reflect the Code's limitation on damages reducing her recovery to $250,000. Delay damages as against DOT were awarded in the amount of $51,957.50 and denied as against Munsey. Further, DOT and Munsey were determined to be jointly and severally liable.

In Ariondo, (GD 85-17789), delay damages as against DOT were awarded in the amount of $25,000*fn2 and the defendants were determined to be jointly and severally liable.

Additionally, the trial court denied DOT's motions for judgment n.o.v. and new trial. DOT appealed to this Court in each case. Additionally, appeals were filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Conner and Gentile cases.

Following the filing of the notices of appeal the trial court issued its opinion in accordance with Pa. R.A.P. 1925(a). The opinion was accompanied by an order modifying the September 1, 1987 orders and eliminating the delay damages assessed against DOT. That order was dated December 30, 1987. All three of the plaintiffs appealed that order to this Court.

The eight appeals from these two trial court orders have been consolidated by order of this Court. We will address the appeals from each order separately.

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 481]

Trial Court Orders Dated September 1, 1987

2184 C.D. 1987

2185 C.D. 1987

2186 C.D. 1987

DOT filed three notices of appeal from these orders; one from each trial court docket.*fn3

With respect to all three appeals, DOT argues that the trial court erred in excluding the evidence DOT sought to introduce regarding the economic limitations which prevented it from ...


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