Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller shareholders Matthew Hamermesh and Mark Aronchick successfully represented Philadelphia Insurance Companies’ insured in an appeal before the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

In the case, a plaintiff who owned and worked at a cleaning company was cleaning the defendant’s building one night and claimed he was exposed to a disinfecting fog that was being used in an adjacent room he was told not to enter. He went to the hospital for treatment of serious but temporary symptoms and was later diagnosed with reactive airway disease.

At trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $500,000 in future economic damages and $500,000 in past and future noneconomic damages. However, the trial court, on post-trial motions, granted judgment as a matter of law on future damages and ordered a new trial limited to noneconomic damages from the immediate aftermath of the exposure.

In August 2022, Matt argued before the Pennsylvania Superior Court focusing on two key issues: Whether the plaintiff could support a claim for ongoing and future injuries, rather than just pain and suffering right after the exposure, and the trial court granting a new trial as a sanction for the plaintiff’s misuse of an interpreter.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision by rejecting the plaintiff’s medical experts, concluding after carefully reviewing the trial testimony that neither doctor had done anything to quantify the amount of the fog to which the plaintiff was exposed; neither had any idea what amount of fog would cause his claimed injury; and both ignored his extensive prior history of pulmonary and related health problems. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision vacating the jury’s damages award, granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict on future damages and ordering a new trial limited to pain and suffering in the exposure’s immediate aftermath.

During the trial, the plaintiff needed an interpreter and was directed to obtain one from the court’s approved list. However, the plaintiff hired his own interpreter. This was discovered when defense counsel observed the plaintiffs conferring with the interpreter during a break in the plaintiff’s testimony. Plaintiff’s counsel then fired the interpreter in the middle of plaintiff’s testimony. The trial court ordered that the interpreter be deposed in the middle of trial. The deposition revealed that a week before the trial the interpreter had met with the plaintiff and his wife to prepare for the trial. The trial court, affirmed by the Superior Court, concluded that the plaintiff, his wife and counsel had deliberately misled the court about the interpreter’s situation and delayed the trial in order to gain an advantage. The court awarded sanctions including alternative grounds for granting a limited new trial, monetary sanctions and a fee award.