Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Retrial Waived After Failure to Request Special Verdict Slip


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided a medical care provider waived their right to challenge pain and suffering damages awarded by the jury because they failed to request a verdict sheet that listed specific categories of damages. A Lehigh County jury awarded a widow $6.3 million which included $2.5 million in wrongful death damages and $3.8 million under Pennsylvania’s Survival Act after a cardiologist failed to diagnose the decedent’s heart disease which resulted in a heart attack while jogging. 

On appeal the Superior Court found that the medical provider was indeed liable, but the pain and suffering portion of the verdict was unsupported by expert testimony and a new trial was ordered. But the Supreme Court’s decision read “Under the rule (General Verdict Rule), when a litigant fails to request a special verdict slip that would have clarified the basis for a general verdict, and the verdict rests upon valid grounds, the right to a new trial is waived.” The General Verdict Rule is in place to “promote judicial efficiency” by preventing unnecessary retrials as well as “fairness” by keeping a litigant, in this case the medical provider, from benefitting from its own omission in failing to request a special verdict slip. 

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