Appeal from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County; Duckett, J.
Hammond, Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Sybert, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
Philip H. Miedzinski, the 16 year old son of the equitable plaintiffs below (appellants here), was struck down and killed by an automobile driven by Matthew Allen Gray (defendant-appellee) while bicycling on a public road in St. Mary's County. Two actions resulted from the accident. One was a suit by John Edward Miedzinski, as administrator of his son's estate, to recover for pain and suffering endured by the son before his death, and for funeral expenses. The other was a wrongful death action to the use of both parents for loss of services of the son, who had assisted his parents in the operation of their 180 acre farm until the accident.
The two actions were tried together before a jury, which found the appellee liable in both cases. Complaining that the $500.00 verdict in the second case, for loss of services, was inadequate, the equitable plaintiffs appeal from the judgment in that case, making five contentions which will be stated as the points are considered.
Appellants argue that evidence showing the deceased son had received an acre of tobacco for his work on his parents' farm was erroneously admitted, since no necessary relationship exists between what is actually paid to a minor child by his parents for his services and the value of those services to the parents. They contend that the admission of this evidence prejudiced the minds of the jurors and caused them to return a lower verdict than would otherwise have been the case.
Courts are reluctant to disturb verdicts for errors in the admission or exclusion of evidence unless they cause substantial injustice. Hance v. State Roads Comm., 221 Md. 164, 156 A.2d 644 (1959). It would appear that no substantial injustice to appellants resulted from what transpired with respect to the testimony in question. The record reveals that after the trial court had concluded its instructions, counsel for appellants called attention to the admission of this evidence over appellants' objection. The trial court then recalled the jury for the first time, and, in a further instruction, specifically directed the jury to disregard the testimony concerning the payment to the son by the parents for his services, stating that the tobacco was a gift and that parents are entitled to a child's services until he becomes 21 years of age. Thus, even if it had been erroneous to admit the testimony in question, the error was cured by the reinstruction and no prejudice resulted. Cf. Jimmy's Cab v. Isennock, 225 Md. 1, 169 A.2d 425 (1961); Gwynn Oak Park v. Becker, 177 Md. 528, 537, 10 A.2d 625 (1940).
Appellants maintain that the trial court erred in admitting, over objection, the testimony of a State police trooper as to the point of impact between appellee's automobile and the bicycle of the deceased, arguing that such opinion evidence on an ultimate issue in the case was an invasion of the province of the jury. Its admission, they contend, planted a "terrible doubt" as to liability in the minds of the jury, leading to a compromise verdict.
The jury's finding for the appellants on the matter of liability greatly weakens this argument. Whether the trooper's testimony in fact created any doubt as to liability is a speculation to which no weight can be accorded. Admission of such testimony was in the sound discretion of the trial court, Williams v. Dawidowicz, 209 Md. 77, 120 A.2d 399 (1956), and we fail to find any abuse of that discretion in this case. The trooper, as investigating officer, qualified as an expert, Acme Poultry Corp. v. Melville, 188 Md. 365, 53 A.2d 1 (1947), and, as was said in Harper v. Higgs, 225 Md. 24, 38,
169 A.2d 661 (1961), "* * * an approved test as to the admissibility of expert opinion is whether the jury can receive appreciable help from the particular witness on the subject, not whether the jury can decide the particular issue without expert help. * * *". The interpretation of skid and swerve marks and gouges in the road at the site of the accident and their significance in regard to where the impact took place was a proper subject for expert testimony ...