December 15th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Damages

Mertz v. Nippenose Valley Village, Inc., Pa. No. CV-21-00178 (C.P. Lycoming November 21, 2022).  The court finds the complaint sufficient to support claim for punitive damages.  The complaint alleges The Court finds that Plaintiff's Complaint contains sufficient facts to support her claim for punitive damages at this stage. The Complaint alleges that numerous issues of a similar nature occurred consistently over nearly two years while Decedent was a resident at the Defendant Facility, including reoccurring falls, blood sugar fluctuations and infections. Plaintiff's allegations of corporate negligence are based on multiple theories that could support a finding that Defendants knew of, or were at least reckless regarding, the risks of harm to Decedent and yet took no (or insufficient) action to address those risks of harm. In particular, Plaintiff avers that the reoccurring issues were due to deliberate understaffing, a failure to train staff to ensure known problems did not reoccur, and a failure to rectify issues that inspections of the Defendant Facility had recently revealed. If Plaintiff proves the facts as alleged in the Complaint, a jury could conclude, for instance, that Decedent's risk of falling was known and obvious,…


October 24th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Damages

Cowher v. Kodali, 2022 Pa. LEXIS 1408 (S. Ct. September 29, 2022) (Dougherty, J.)  The jury in this medical malpractice case awarded the plaintiff Karen Cowher a lump sum amount of damages under the Survival Act, 42 Pa.C.S. §8302, and did not itemize the amount of pain and suffering damages or other components of its aggregate award. Thereafter, the Superior Court granted the defendants Dr. Sobhan Kodali, St. Luke's University Health Network, and St. Luke's Cardiology Associates (defendants) a new trial on survival damages based on their claim the admission of plaintiff's expert opinion testimony on pain and suffering was erroneous. The narrow question we address in this appeal is whether defendants waived their right to a new trial under the general verdict rule.  This rule applies and mandates waiver when a general verdict rests upon both valid and invalid grounds, and the litigant challenging the verdict failed to request a special verdict slip that would have clarified the basis for the verdict. As detailed below, these are the circumstances here. Accordingly, we hold defendants waived a new trial under the general verdict rule and reverse the Superior Court's order for a new…


October 19th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Damages

Fertig v. Horace Mann Insurance Company, Pa. Civil No. 16-CV-4801 (C.P. Lackawanna August 19, 2022) (Nealon, J.)  After juries in separate underinsured motorist (“UIM”) benefits trials awarded the insured $75,000 in economic damages and $175,000 in noneconomic damages for an aggregate gross award of $250,000, the combined verdicts were reduced to a net UIM award of $150,000 to reflect a credit for the tortfeasor’s liability insurance coverage limit of $100,000.  The UIM insurer has filed a post-trial motion pursuant to Pa.R.Civ.P. 227.1(a)(4) seeking to mold the $150,000 net award to its UIM coverage limit of $100,000.  The insured has filed her own post-trial motion requesting an award of delay damages under Pa.R.Civ.P. 238 as calculated based upon the net award of $150,000.  Absent bad faith liability on the part of the UIM insurer, decisional precedent in our Commonwealth limits the maximum “legally-recoverable” damages in a UIM proceeding to the UIM coverage limits set forth in the policy, and requires an award in excess of that limit to be molded to the amount of the UIM policy limit.  The insured’s argument premised upon the common law “made whole” doctrine is misplaced…


July 25th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Damages

Hamm v. Perano, PA No. 20-00598 (C.P. Lycoming June 22, 2022) (Linhardt, J.)  Plaintiff commenced this action on June 9, 2020 by filing a Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that on May 23, 2019, while performing yardwork at the mobile home lot she rented from Defendants, she fell through an unsecured manhole cover, causing her to sustain serious bodily injury. Plaintiff claims that as owners of the premises, Defendants negligently failed to secure the cover, inspect the property for dangerous conditions, or take reasonable other affirmative actions to prevent Plaintiff from harm. In the absence of any positive law indicating that the "discomfort, inconvenience, and distress" that may attend ongoing doctor's visits is excepted from this general requirement, the Court will allow Plaintiff to present evidence of the need for future medical treatment to the jury, both to establish this specific component of pain and suffering and as evidence of Plaintiff's future pain and suffering generally. Although it is quite possible the jury could view these as "transient rubs of life" that do not warrant compensation, it is for the jury rather than the Court to make that determination in the first…


July 23rd, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Damages

DAMAGES-PIERCIING THE CORPORATE VEIL Kelly Smith v. A.O. Smith Corp., 2022 Pa. Super. LEXIS 37(January 26, 2022) (Colins, J.).  Kelly Smith ("Plaintiff"), the executrix of the estate of Daniel R. Harrity ("Decedent"), appeals from the December 1, 2020 order dismissing all claims and parties in this action in which Plaintiff seeks damages related to Decedent's alleged exposure to asbestos. In this appeal, Plaintiff challenges the August 11, 2020 order of the trial court granting the summary judgment motion of Appellee Vanadium Enterprises Corporation ("Vanadium"); the trial court concluded that the record lacked sufficient evidence to support a finding that Vanadium was liable as a successor to Decedent's former employers, Schneider, Inc. and one of its subsidiaries, Pittsburgh Mechanical Systems, Inc. ("Pittsburgh Mechanical"). In Pennsylvania, it is a "general principle of corporation law that a purchaser of a corporation's assets does not, for such reason alone, assume the debts of the selling corporation, unlike a purchaser of the corporation's stock." Fizzano Brothers, 42 A.3d at 954. However, exceptions to this general rule against successor liability have been recognized where: (1) the purchaser expressly or implicitly agreed to assume liability, (2) the…


March 20th, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Damages

Damages in a Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim Murga v. Lehigh Valley Physicians Grp. 2018 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 3053 (November 26, 2018) Johnson, J.-Court would not grant partial summary judgment on negligent affliction of emotional distress claim. Plaintiff argued that NIED claims have evolved and broadened in Pennsylvania and that her NIED claims were appropriate under multiple theories of recovery including the duty of care arising from a special relationship, a physical impact theory and a bystander theory. The court distinguished between transitory, nonrecurring physical phenomena like fright as opposed to depression, nightmares, stress and anxiety. Plaintiff’s severe emotional and psychological injuries which were accompanied by physical injuries, pain and suffering are sufficient to satisfy the physical harm requirement.