two and a half years after the accident. So much for pain and suffering.
The medical testimony, which is undisputed, is to the effect that the plaintiff sustained permanent injuries to his hands. One of the forearms has been shortened; both hands have a limitation of motion; there is very little functional use of the fingers and the hands cannot perform any useful functions. The plaintiff did not have sufficient education to enable him to fill what is known as a white collar job. His employment has been mechanical. He is unable to do any manual work or use any tools as a result of the injuries to his hands. He has to wear a brace on his right arm and has no use of the arm. He is unable to use ordinary kitchen and dining room utensils. He has to be helped in washing and dressing. His food has to be cut for him. In addition to that, he sustained a loss of earning power. He has been able to get a position as a watchman or guard, after some difficulty, at a salary of $2,100 a year less than he had been earning prior to the accident. He is unable to go out socially or appear in public places because of the embarrassment that he suffers due to the inability to use his hands normally.
It does not seem to the Court that an award of $60,000 for pain and suffering and for the permanent injuries is beyond reasonable bounds. The award does not shock the conscience, and it is not the result of passion and prejudice. Whether the Court would have awarded the same amount or not is immaterial. What is important is that it cannot be said that the award is not sustained by the evidence or not warranted under the facts of this case. The decision was a jury question which the jury reached within reasonable limits. For the Court to require a remittitur would be to encroach upon the function of the jury.
The Court wishes to add the following observation. The case was very ably tried on both sides. There were no appeals to sympathy, no eloquence or histrionics or excessive oratory employed by counsel. The evidence was presented and discussed in a calm, objective fashion on both sides.
The Court, therefore, sees no reason for interfering with the award of the jury insofar as the male plaintiff is concerned.
The award of $12,500 to the wife for loss of services and companionship does seem high, but this is an extreme case. The wife acted practically as a nurse from the moment the plaintiff returned from the hospital. He is unable to do any work around the house as he used to. The wife has to continue helping her husband, she has to cut his food, help him dress, and so on. In other words, she is married to a partial cripple. They cannot go out socially because of his condition. He shuns visitors. These effects are much more serious than are confronted in most cases of personal injuries.
In this connection the Court has made an attempt to review some verdicts that have been made or sustained for loss of a spouse's services. To be sure, the amount of a verdict is something that cannot be influenced by precedents. Nevertheless, it may be illuminating to see what has been done in other cases. The Court has found two similar cases under the Federal Tort Claims Act, tried in Federal Court, necessarily without a jury, the award being made by the judge alone. The Court felt that cases of this type were perhaps more weighty than jury awards.
In the case of Redding v. United States, D.C., 196 F. Supp. 871, decided by Judge John E. Miller of the Western District of Arkansas, an eminent judge of many years' experience, a wife sustained permanent injury to her kidneys and developed a condition of rheumatoid arthritis as a result of malpractice in a government hospital. She received a blood transfusion of a wrong type of blood. The Court awarded the sum of $10,000 as the husband's damages for loss of services. I might say that no medical expenses were included in that figure because the medical and hospital expenses were paid by the government.
In Kolesar v. United States, 198 F. Supp. 517, decided in the Southern District of Florida, again there was malpractice in a government hospital as a result of which a serviceman's wife sustained brain damage. There, too, the Court awarded $10,000 for loss of consortium.
In Price v. H. B. Green Transportation Line, 287 F.2d 363, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sustained a jury award of $10,000 for the husband's loss of consortium.
This Court cannot reasonably say that an award of $12,500 is excessive or shocks the conscience in the light of the cases to which the Court has referred and in the light of the unusual facts of this case.
The Court has reached the conclusion that it should not interfere with either of the two verdicts.
The motions for a new trial or for a remittitur are denied.
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