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Corvin v. Tihansky

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 20, 2018

JAMES K. CORVIN III, AN INDIVIDUAL Appellant
v.
DENNIS P. TIHANSKY, AN INDIVIDUAL

          Appeal from the Judgment Entered July 21, 2017 In the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County Civil Division at No(s): 2011-9139

          BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., SHOGAN, J., and STRASSBURGER, [*] J.

          OPINION

          SHOGAN, J.

         Appellant, James K. Corvin III, appeals from the judgment entered on July 21, 2017, in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, following the trial court's denial of Appellant's post-trial motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict ("JNOV") or for a new trial. We affirm.

         The trial court summarized the facts and history as follows:

On November 9, 2010, [Appellant] was stopped at a stop sign in Washington County, when he was rear-ended by an automobile driven by Dennis P. Tihansky, [Appellee ("Tihansky")]. An ambulance took [Appellant] to the Washington Hospital where he was examined, treated and released. On November 10, 201[0], he visited his primary care physician, Dr. Means, complaining of neck pain, headache and dizziness, lightheadedness and arm pain. Dr. Means prescribed pain medication and ordered physical therapy. Two weeks later [Appellant] returned with the same complaints. He related that he had not been to work because he could not focus while driving or on paperwork. Approximately two weeks later, [Appellant] returned and reported he was no better. Dr. Means prescribed an MRI test. After viewing the MRI results, Dr. Means referred [Appellant] to Dr. Maroon, a neurosurgeon, who examined [Appellant] on January 11, 2011. Dr. Maroon diagnosed a herniated disc at C6-7 and recommended an anterior cervical discectomy and interbody fusion.[1]
A complaint was filed and eventually the matter came to be heard by a jury in October of 2016. [Tihansky] admitted negligence. On the fourth day of trial, the case was handed to the jury along with a verdict slip. Question 1 asked:
Do you find from a preponderance of the evidence that the negligence of [Appellee], Dennis P. Tihansky, was a factual cause of any harm to [Appellant], James K. Corvin, III?
The jury answered "No" and returned to the courtroom.
[Appellant] filed a timely motion for post-trial relief, requesting in the alternative, [JNOV], or a new trial. (Given [Tihansky's] admission of negligence, granting either form of relief would result in another trial limited to the issue of damages).

         Trial Court Opinion, 7/7/17, at 1-2. Appellant filed a court-ordered Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement on September 20, 2017. In lieu of a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(a) opinion, the trial court relied upon its opinion denying post-trial relief filed on July 7, 2017.

         Appellant raises the following issues for our review:

I. Did the Trial Court commit error in denying [Appellant's] Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (JNOV) on the issue of causation, when the verdict was such that no two reasonable minds could disagree that there should have been a causation finding in favor of [Appellant]? More specifically, did the Trial Court commit error by denying [Appellant's] Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (JNOV) on the issue of causation despite the fact that [Tihansky's] own expert admitted that [Appellant] sustained an injury as a result of the subject automobile accident?
II. Did the Trial Court commit error in denying [Appellant's] Motion for a New Trial on the issue of causation when the verdict was against the clear and substantial weight of the evidence? Specifically, in light of the fact that [Tihansky's] own expert admitted that [Appellant] sustained an injury as a result of the subject automobile accident, did the jury's finding of "no causation" shock one's "sense of justice?"

         Appellant's Brief at 6.

         Appellant's first issue involves the following standards. The propriety of a JNOV is a question of law, and therefore, our scope of review is plenary. Foster v. Maritrans, Inc., 790 A.2d 328, 330 (Pa. Super. 2002). When the denial of JNOV is challenged on the basis that the evidence was such that no two reasonable minds could disagree that the outcome should have been rendered in favor of the movant, as here, this Court reviews the evidentiary record and must conclude "that the evidence was such that ...


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