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Almeida v. Le

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 9, 2017

NATISHA ALMEIDA, Plaintiff,
v.
TUAN A. LE, M.D., DOYLESTOWN WOMEN'S HEALTH CENTER, LLC, PAUL J. ADELIZZI, M.D., and MARK S. SILIDKER, M.D., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          ROBERT F. KELLY, SENIOR JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is a Post-Trial Motion for Remittitur, or in the Alternative, a New Trial on Damages by Defendants Tuan A. Le, M.D. (“Dr. Le”) and Doylestown Women's Health Center, LLC, and Plaintiff's Response to Post Trial Motion for Remittitur, or in the Alternative, a New Trial on Damages by Defendants Tuan A. Le, M.D. and Doylestown Women's Health Center, LLC. For the reasons set forth below, we deny the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 10, 2013, Dr. Le performed an exploratory laparotomy surgery on Plaintiff, Natisha Almeida (“Almeida”) at Doylestown Hospital for a pelvic mass, which was not found during surgery. (Defs.' Mem. Law Support Mot. Remittitur or New Trial at 2.) At trail, Almeida alleged that, as a result of Dr. Le's surgery, she suffers from abdominal scarring and infertility issues. (Id.) This medical malpractice case was tried from March 13, 2017, to March 17, 2017. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Almeida against Dr. Le and Doylestown Women's Health Center, LLC, in the amount of $625, 000. (Id.)

         Dr. Le and Doylestown Women's Health Center, LLC, assert that they are entitled to remittitur or, in the alternative, a new trial on damages because the damages awarded by the jury were excessive. (See Defs.' Mem. Law Support Mot. Remittitur or New Trial.) They argue that “the damages award in this case bears no resemblance to the nature of the case and/or the damages Plaintiff requested.” (Id. at 8.) First, Defendants acknowledge that “Ms. Almeida had a scar on her abdomen that is an unavoidable result of any laparotomy.” (Id.) However, they assert that she would have had an abdominal scar, anyway, as a result of a 2016 surgery that she needed to remove a uterine polyp that existed prior to Dr. Le's 2013 surgery, and the jury unreasonably attributed all scarring to Dr. Le's surgery. (Id. at 8-9.) Second, they argue that Almeida claimed that she was infertile as a result of Dr. Le's procedure, and she presented no competent evidence that she suffered infertility as a result of the procedure. (Id. at 1, 9-10.) According to the Moving Defendants, “[e]ven if this Court finds the weight of the evidence supports her infertility claim, the weight of the evidence shows that any fertility problems are more likely as a result of her history of STDs and Dr. Bowers['] 2016 surgery to remove a polyp in her uterus, rather than as a result of Dr. Le's 2013 surgery.” (Id. at 9.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “After a jury trial, a court ‘may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues -and to any party - . . . for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court.'” Tax Matrix Techs., LLC v. Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., No. 13-6223, 2017 WL 1397218, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 19, 2017) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)). “In diversity cases in which state law ‘governs the claims for relief, ' state law also ‘suppl[ies] the test for federal-court review of the size of the verdict.'” Id. at *1 (quoting Gasperini v. Ctr. for Humanities, Inc., 518 U.S. 415, 426 (1996); citing Browning-Ferris Indus. of Vt., Inc. v. Kelco Disposal, Inc., 492 U.S. 257, 279 (1989) (“In reviewing an award of . . . damages, the role of the district court is to determine whether the jury's verdict is within the confines set by state law, and to determine, by reference to federal standards developed under Rule 59, whether a new trial or remittitur should be ordered.”)).

         Pennsylvania law supplies the applicable standard for use in making a Rule 59(a) determination in this case.[1] See id.

The grant or refusal of a new trial because of the excessiveness of the verdict is within the discretion of the trial court. This [C]ourt will not find a verdict excessive unless it is so grossly excessive as to shock our sense of justice. We begin with the premise that large verdicts are not necessarily excessive verdicts. Each case is unique and dependent on its own special circumstances and a court should apply only those factors which it finds to be relevant in determining whether or not the verdict is excessive.

Tillery v. Children's Hosp. of Phila., __ A.3d __, No. 1508, 2017 WL 769822, at *9 (Pa. Super. Ct. Feb. 28, 2017), reargument denied (Apr. 24, 2017) (quoting Tindall v. Friedman, 970 A.2d 1159, 1177 (Pa. Super. 2009) (citations omitted)). The Pennsylvania Superior Court has enumerated a number of factors to consider when determining whether a jury's verdict is excessive:

(1) the severity of the injury; (2) whether the plaintiff's injury is manifested by objective physical evidence or whether it is only revealed by the subjective testimony of the plaintiff (and, herein, the court pointed out that where the injury is manifested by broken bones, disfigurement, loss of consciousness, or other objective evidence, the courts have counted this in favor of sustaining a verdict); (3) whether the injury will affect the plaintiff permanently; (4) whether the plaintiff can continue with his or her employment; (5) the size of the plaintiff's out-of-pocket expenses; and (6) the amount plaintiff demanded in the original complaint.

Am. Honda Motor Co., Inc. v. Martinez, No. 445, 2017 WL 1400968, at *10 (Pa. Super. Ct. Apr. 19, 2017) (quoting Gbur v. Golio, 932 A.2d 203, 212 (Pa. Super. 2007)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Here, the damages awarded by the jury are not so grossly excessive as to shock one's sense of justice. As admitted by Moving Defendants, Almeida had a laparotomy scar from Dr. Le's 2013 surgery. (See Defs.' Mem. Law Support Mot. Remittitur or New Trial at 8.) Almeida argues that the assertion by Moving Defendants that she would have had a laparotomy scar, anyway, as a result of Dr. Bowers' 2016 polyp removal surgery is not supported by the record, and is ...


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