Chavers v. 1605 Valley Ctr. Pky, L.P., 2023 Pa. Super. LEXIS 169, 2023 WL 3138071 (April 28, 2023) (Murray, J.). Appellant Kalevelyn Chavers appealed from a $202,814.23 judgment following a verdict against 1605 Valley Center. The court vacated in part and remanded with instructions. This was a lawsuit where appellant tripped on exposed wires at her place of employment, causing her to fall. She settled the claim against the employer and its workers for $100,000. As a result of the settlement, the employer/carrier assigned their subrogation rights to her and she filed an action against PCPP. The first issue is whether the trial court committed prejudicial error of law and/or abuse of discretion by denying admission of past medical expenses and/or the lien for the same, allowing the jury to be told that any award of the lien amount would be double recovery and by refusing to mold the verdict to include past medical expenses of $228,347.10 plus delay damages and post-judgment interest and/or failing to grant a new trial on damages for the valuation of past recoverable medical expenses. The court ruled that it would vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for the trial court to mold the verdict to include appellant’s past medical expenses plus delay damages and interest. In all civil cases where the plaintiff seeks monetary relief for bodily injury, delay damages shall be added to compensatory damages. Here, the trial court’s precluding an award for past medical expenses was wrong. It is not a windfall because the jury found PCPP 100% negligent for the fall.
1. Did the trial court commit prejudicial error of law and/or abuse of discretion by permitting the jury to be advised that [Appellant] did not have to pay back the indemnity lien due to the assignment of the lien to her, depriving [Appellant] of an additional award of at least $154,711.66 (plus delay damages and post-judgment interest)….
The subrogation lien identifies the past medical expenses paid by the carrier. The court cites Moorhead v. Crozer Chester Medical Center, 765 A.2d 786, 789 (Pa. 2001). The subrogation lien identifies the past medical expenses paid by the carrier. A review of the record shows the trial court properly instructed the jury that it could award appellant her past lost earnings. The trial court did not instruct the jury to make any deductions from this award. In denying appellant relief, the trial court explained that it respected the jury’s findings of fact. The appellate court found no abuse of discretion. The jury verdict bears a reasonable resemblance of approving damages.
2. Did the trial court commit prejudicial error of law and/or abuse its discretion by precluding Dr. [Christopher] Ferrante’s estimate as to the cost of future medical expenses…?
The Superior Court ruled that the court committed prejudicial error of law and/or abuse of discretion by refusing to grant a new trial on the disfigurement claim since the verdict was zero and clearly against the weight of the evidence.
3. Did the court commit prejudicial error of law and/or abuse of discretion by refusing to grant a new trial on the claim for past, present, and future pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life, since an award of only $25,000 is against the weight of the evidence…?
Tied to that was whether the court should have granted a new trial on assessing the value of loss of past and future household services where the jury awarded zero. The jury heard extensive evidence concerning disfigurement, loss of value of household services and pain and suffering. Ultimately, the jury chose to award nothing for disfigurement or lost value of household services and awarded $25,000 for pain and suffering. The court let that stand because appellant did not convince the Superior Court that there was an abuse of discretion.
Appeal of PCPP.
1. Did the trial court err by denying [PCPP’s] motion for judgment NOV…?
It was argued that PCPP owed a duty of care. PCPP argued that it did not retain sufficient control over the premises to impose a duty to protect appellant from foreseeable harm. Control over the property was evidenced by the lease agreement, building rules, exclusive right to service a property, maintenance and janitorial responsibilities and inspections. Material issues of fact existed regarding the issue of such duty. Therefore, it was properly submitted to the jury.
2. Is a new trial required due to errors at trial…?
a. Whether the trial court erred by denying PCPP’s proposed verdict slip and accepting appellant’s verdict slip and submitting an error filled verdict slip which caused jury confusion?
PCPP cites no authority for the proposition that listing all defendants on a verdict slip constitutes error. As such, PCPP’s claim merits no relief.
b. Whether the trial court erred by failing to charge the jury on open and obvious conditions and instead charging under SJIC 13.180?
Viewing the charge in its entirety against the background of evidence presented, there is no abuse of discretion or error. The jury’s finding that appellant was not comparatively negligent is not against the weight of the evidence. The finding does not shock the conscience of the jury. The jury charge referenced above created no error of law.
COVID-19 is not relevant to delay damages. The trial court, in declining to exclude discovery delays in calculating delay damages was not an error. PCPP’s challenge to award of delay damages warrants no relief. There is no basis for remittitur either.