On March 6, 2019, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a judgment entered in the Court of Common Pleas Monroe County in Steudler v. Keating. The case arises out of a tragic accident in which Kirkland Keating’s car struck and killed Victor Angel Resto while Resto and Steudler were walking on the side of a highway. At trial, it was undisputed that the Accident occurred on October 19, 2011 at 10:00 pm. There was also no dispute that Decedent and Steudler were walking in the dark without any flashlights on the same side of a two-lane road as vehicles traveling in the same direction.
However, facts concerning where Decedent and Steudler were walking, Keating’s driving and the weather and visibility conditions were disputed. According to Keating, he had been obeying all traffic laws at the time of the Accident and did not see Decedent before his SUV struck Decedent. Further, both Keating and the responding police officer testified the road was dark and it was raining heavily at the time of the Accident. The police officer also noted the Decedent was wearing dark clothing and he found one of Decedent’s shoes lying partially on the white line of the road. As such, Keating’s expert opined that Decedent was walking on the road itself at the time of the Accident and not on the shoulder.
After deliberation, the jury returned unanimous verdicts finding Keating was negligent, but Keating’s negligence did not cause harm to the Decedent and Steudler. Steudler and Decedent’s estate appealed on the ground that the verdicts were against the weight of the evidence. Based on the verdict sheet, the jury found that the defendant was negligent, but that the negligence did not cause harm to the plaintiffs, which seems at odds with the fact that there was 1) negligence and 2) a collision with the pedestrian plaintiffs.
In Pennsylvania, a new trial cannot be granted on the ground that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence if the evidence at trial was conflicting and the jury could have decided in favor of either party. Here, both Keating’s negligence and the cause of Decedent’s death were disputed at trial and the evidence was conflicting. Therefore, the PA Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling. Thanks to Garrett Gittler for his contirbution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.