“Loss of the pleasures and enjoyments of life” and “loss of feeling of well-being” not separate, compensable items of damages, Superior Ct. rules

Damages awarded to injured man are vacated and new trial granted based on “prejudicial verdict interrogatory” and improper charge on damages

(5/28/2004) - A man injured in a motor vehicle accident is not entitled to a jury’s award of damages because a verdict interrogatory and the trial court’s charge on damages improperly permitted the jury to consider a number of “categorized misfortunes” that are subdivisions of pain and suffering and not separate categories of damages recognized by law, the Superior Court ruled on May 27, 2023 in Carpinet v. Mitchell. In the case, the Superior Court ruled that a plaintiff’s “loss of the pleasures and enjoyments of life” and the “loss of feeling of well-being” are not separate compensable elements of damages. The Superior Court vacated the award and granted a new trial limited to damages.

In a 25-page opinion written by Judge James R. Cavanaugh, the court acknowledged that although the Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Civil Jury Instructions 6.01I “appear to perhaps permit separate recovery,” the state Supreme Court has never adopted the Pennsylvania Standard Jury Instructions, “which exist only as a reference material available to assist the trial judge and trial counsel in preparing a proper charge.” Cavanaugh noted further that, “piecemeal awards for various forms of pain and suffering have never been the law of Pennsylvania.”

“We find the court was in error in inviting the jury to enter six separate awards for pain and suffering and that the better practice is to charge on pain and suffering and to allow counsel to argue the components within reason,” Cavanaugh wrote.

Judge Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion in which he disagreed with the panel’s decision that the verdict interrogatory and court’s charge were erroneous.