On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County.
Pressler, Dreier and Bilder. The opinion of the court was delivered by Dreier, J.A.D.
[206 NJSuper Page 75] Plaintiffs have appealed from a $9,000 damages judgment entered after a jury verdict in a damages-only trial. In the earlier liability trial the infant plaintiff, five years old at the time of the accident, had been determined to have been 40% negligent and defendant the owner of the apartment where the child and his mother were visiting, 60% negligent.*fn1 Defendant had in the liability trial filed a third-party complaint against the child's mother and the tenant in the apartment, claiming negligent supervision of the child. Defendant claimed that the mother should be responsible to indemnify defendant pursuant to the Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Law, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A, for
"the injuries and damages sustained by Daniel Chavanne [the minor] and Edward Chavanne [Daniel's father, the guardian ad litem and plaintiff in his own right]." The father had claimed reimbursement of medical expenses and deprivation of "companionship, assistance, love and affection." This claim was dismissed by the trial judge on the mother's motion.*fn2
The facts in this case show that the child was injured when he fell through a glass door suffering facial lacerations. The primary permanent injury was a two inch facial scar. Immediately after the accident Daniel's mother closed the wound, applied cold compresses and summoned her husband. The crying child was taken to West Jersey Hospital where he was treated in the emergency room with his parents remaining close at hand. The next day he was taken to the family doctor who changed the dressing and gave the boy a tetanus shot. He again was screaming while the shot was given and it took three people to hold him down. During a second visit the dressing was changed and on a third visit the stitches were removed in a procedure that took approximately one hour including a break so that Daniel could calm down. Again three people were needed to hold the child during this procedure. The boy missed approximately one week of school and for the next month was
not permitted to run or jump. When plaintiffs' counsel attempted to question the mother as to "any problem with Danny concerning his being teased," the trial judge foreclosed such questioning stating: "I think we have to confine ourselves to pain and suffering." The mother did state, however, that "Danny used to hang his head constantly and try to hide the scar" and still occasionally holds his head in that manner.
Plaintiffs' expert, Dr. Darast, testified that the scar in question*fn3 could be made less noticeable by dermabrasion and Z-plasty which, although not eliminating the scar, would make it less noticeable by "smoothing the scar and tissue" and "narrow[ing] it down and place[ing] it within the skin lines, tension folds so to speak." After cross-examination the trial judge explored the witness' characterization of the benefits of the operative procedures:
THE COURT: How would you characterize this scar when you first saw it, between one and ten, ten being the worst, one being the least mild . . . would you consider it mild?
WITNESS: I would say five.
THE COURT: Five, o.k., and now?
WITNESS: Now it is about three.
THE COURT: And after the dermabrasion it would ...