McMichael, T. v. McMichael, M. & P&J Const, Aplts.

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[J-25AB-2020] IN THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA WESTERN DISTRICT SAYLOR, C.J., BAER, TODD, DONOHUE, DOUGHERTY, WECHT, MUNDY, JJ. TINA MCMICHAEL, INDIVIDUALLY AND : No. 50 WAP 2019 AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF : SETH W. MCMICHAEL, DECEASED : Appeal from the Order of the : Superior Court entered April 15, : 2019 at No. 721 WDA 2018, v. : affirming in part and reversing part : the Judgment of the Court of : Common Pleas of Beaver County MICHELLE J. MCMICHAEL, EXECUTRIX : entered May 7, 2018 at No. 11370- OF THE ESTATE OF PETER D. : 2013 and remanding. MCMICHAEL, DECEASED; JANICE : MCMICHAEL; P&J CONSTRUCTION AND : SUBMITTED: April 16, 2020 LANDSCAPE NURSERY LLC; AND : MARKWEST ENERGY PARTNERS, L.P. : : : APPEAL OF: MICHELLE J. MCMICHAEL, : EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF PETER : D. MCMICHAEL, DECEASED, AND P&J : CONSTRUCTION AND LANDSCAPE : NURSERY LLC : TINA MCMICHAEL, INDIVIDUALLY, AND : No. 51 WAP 2019 AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF : SETH W. MCMICHAEL, DECEASED, : Appeal from the Order of the : Superior Court entered April 15, Appellee : 2019 at No. 795 WDA 2018, : affirming in part and reversing part : the Judgment of the Court of v. : Common Pleas of Beaver County : entered May 7, 2018 at No. 11370- : 2013 and remanding. MICHELLE J. MCMICHAEL, EXECUTRIX : OF THE ESTATE OF PETER D. : SUBMITTED: April 16, 2020 MCMICHAEL, DECEASED, AND P&J : CONSTRUCTION AND LANDSCAPE : NURSERY LLC, : : Appellants : OPINION JUSTICE TODD DECIDED: NOVEMBER 18, 2020 In this appeal by allowance, we consider whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying a motion for a new trial following a jury award of zero dollars in damages in a wrongful death action. Upon review, we conclude that the trial court erred in denying a new trial with respect to the non-economic damages award,1 and, therefore, we affirm in part and reverse in part the Superior Court’s decision remanding for a new trial, limiting the new trial on remand to non-economic damages. Peter McMichael and his wife, Janice McMichael, entered into a lease with MarkWest Energy Partners, LP (hereinafter “MarkWest”) whereby MarkWest was to install a natural gas pipeline on the McMichaels’ property in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. The lease required MarkWest to hire P&J Construction and Landscaping Nursery, LLC (hereinafter “P&J”), which was owned by the McMichaels, to perform the tree clearing on the property in preparation for the installation of the pipeline. Peter McMichael, on behalf of P&J, hired his 51-year-old nephew, Seth McMichael (hereinafter, “Decedent”); Decedent’s son, David; and another individual, Michael Hudak, all of whom were familiar with the process of tree removal, to assist in clearing the trees on the property. On January 25, 2013, while Peter McMichael was supervising the tree clearing process, he simultaneously was using a bulldozer to clear an access road. As a result, Peter would periodically turn his back to the tree cutters. At …

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