Pain and Suffering as Seperate

Posted Tuesday, June 20, 2017 by Ed Harper

Washington Pattern Jury Instruction 30.06 allows for pain and suffering as separate elements of damages. WPI 30.06 states: “The pain and suffering, both mental and physical any inconvenience, mental anguish, disability, or disability experienced and with reasonable probability to be experienced in the future.” In the case of Green v. Floe, 28 Wn.2d 620, the Washington Supreme Court in 1947 determined these are separate elements - mental suffering and physical pain.

The court stated as follows “physical pain and mental suffering are bracketed together as elements of damage in personal injury cases. The former is the immediate felt effect upon the nerves and brain of some lesion or injury to a part of the body. The latter is distressed when it is not felt as being directly connected with any bodily condition. Mental suffering is regarded by the courts as the usual accompaniment of physical pain, and the difficulty of distinguishing the two has been deemed the reason for allowing damages for mental suffering. A claim for bodily pain lets in mental suffering.” (Green, at 636 – 637).

The court went on further stating, “Mental pain and suffering in connection with the wrong which apart from such pain and suffering constitutes a cause of action is a proper element of damages where it is a natural and proximate consequence of the wrong.” (Green, at 637).

Here, the Plaintiff Green had a permanent disability to his knee. “The knee was broken in eight places. The leg bothers him continually, and especially in damp weather. It squeaks. As a result of a demonstration in the courtroom… the squeak in respondent’s knee was audible to the jury’s.… Additionally, there was testimony of Green’s physician to the effect that the kneecap was completely fractured; there were several fractures; that as a result Plaintiff Green has an unstable knee.

“It was alleged in the complaint that as a result of the injuries received, Green suffered a severe nervous and mental shock, and much pain and anguish, and that for a long time to come he will continue to suffer physically and mentally.

“In view of the above allegations and testimony in this case did the court error in instructing the jury that they might consider whether Green suffered mental and physical pain on account of the injury to his leg.

“The general rule is that in an action for physical injury the recoverable damages may include compensation for mental anguish or suffering which results so directly from that injury as to be the natural, legitimate, and proximate consequence thereof.” (Cites omitted).

A reason given for the rule is that the mind is a part of the body, and injury to the body includes the whole, and its effects are not separable. In such cases the mental suffering is merely an aggravation of damages when it naturally ensues from the act complained of. Mental suffering when connected with any bodily injury, is always to be considered in damages. (Green, at 636).

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