Motor Vehicle • Delay Damages • Future Medical Expenses

Roth v. Ross, PICS Case No. 14-0229 (Pa. Super. Feb. 7, 2014) Donohue, J. (8 pages).

Where a plaintiff seeks monetary relief for his own bodily injury, the trial court may properly award delay damages. Reversed.

A motor vehicle operated by defendant Jennifer Ross struck a vehicle occupied by plaintiff Eileen Roth. Roth initiated the underlying action in negligence against Ross and her insurer to recover damages for injuries sustained in the accident, including past and future pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, mental anguish and emotional distress. A trial on the issue of causation of Roth’s injuries led to a verdict awarding her $40,000 for past pain and suffering and $20,000 for future medical expenses.

Roth filed a motion for the inclusion of delay damages pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 238. The trial court granted Roth’s request for delay damages on past pain and suffering, but denied them on her future medical expenses. The trial court based its decision on Roth’s failure to provide appellate case law that established future medical expenses as contained within the definition of “bodily injury” in Rule 238, as well as on an unpublished common pleas case, Ferraro v. Knies, that denied delay damages for future medical expenses.

On appeal, Roth asserted that the trial court erred in refusing to include the portion of the verdict for future medical expenses when calculating delay damages, arguing that a plain reading of the Rule establishes her right to delay damages.

The instant court agreed with Roth’s argument, finding that the plain language of the Rule requires delay damages to be added to monetary damages for bodily injury. The instant court further held that the trial court erred in basing its decision on whether future medical expenses constituted bodily injury, and instead found that the proper inquiry was whether future medical expenses constituted monetary relief for bodily injury.

The court also rejected the trial court’s prior precedent as in error, finding that it incorrectly relied on two appellate decision, Anchorstar v. Mack Trucks, Inc. and Goldberg ex rel. Goldberg v. Isdaner, which denied delay damages for monetary damages for bodily injuries that occurred to someone other than the plaintiff. The court distinguished the instant case, noting that the bodily injuries occurred to Roth herself.

The court also noted that it had previously held that trial courts were proper in granting delay damages for awards on future injuries. As a result, it concluded that the trial court should have granted Roth delay damages on the future medical expenses portion of her award.