On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 211 N.J. Super. 657 (1986).
For reversal and reinstatement -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Handler, J.
In this personal injury action, defendant, Columbia Motor Corporation, appeals from a judgment entered upon a jury verdict awarding plaintiff, Dr. Kenneth Friedman, $875,000.00 for past, present, and future pain, suffering and disability. This appeal presents the Court with the issue of whether an award of damages for future non-economic injuries -- pain, suffering, disability, and the like -- must be discounted to reflect its present value. We now hold that such damages should not be discounted.
On July 29, 1981, plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident caused by a defectively designed master brake cylinder installed in his vehicle by C & S Car Service (C & S). C & S had obtained the cylinder from Rallye Imported Auto Parts (Rallye), which purchased it from Columbia Motor Corporation (Columbia). As a result of the accident, Dr. Friedman suffered a
comminuted fracture of his left wrist, causing extreme pain during treatment as well as permanent pain and suffering.
Plaintiff has a Ph.D. in biological sciences and at the time of the accident was an Assistant Professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of the State of New Jersey. As a result of his wrist injury, plaintiff can no longer perform "highly sophisticated microsurgical experiments." Nevertheless, he has since been promoted to Associate Professor.
Dr. Friedman instituted this action against C & S, Rallye, and Columbia. Plaintiff sought to recover damages only for past and future pain, suffering, disability, and impairment. He made no claim for lost wages or medical expenses.
At trial, plaintiff's counsel advised the court that he would be making a time-unit argument in his closing statement. Under Rule 1:7-1(b), counsel may suggest to the trier of fact that it calculate damages on the basis of specific time periods, for example, the amount of pain that a plaintiff will suffer each day for the rest of his life. As required by the Rule, the trial court instructed the jury that plaintiff's time-unit summation was only argumentative and did not constitute evidence. No issue had been raised as to whether a jury award for damages was required to be discounted in order to represent only the present value of damages that encompassed compensation for future losses. Neither party had introduced evidence on present value and factors such as inflation or interest rates as these might affect an award for damages, and no instruction on these matters was requested. Further, in its jury charge, the trial court did not instruct the jury that any damages awarded for future losses must be discounted to present value, and no objection to this charge was raised.
The jury returned a verdict in the amount of $875,000 against Columbia. Defendant does not dispute that it is liable for the entire award, but appealed on the grounds that the verdict was
excessive and that it exceeded the plaintiff's statement ...