On Monday, November 27, 2017, New York Office Partner Brian Gibbons completed a three week damages trial in Queens County, stemming from a 2014 motor vehicle accident. The plaintiff, 22 at the time of the accident, was rear-ended on the Northern State Parkway, and taken to the hospital from the scene. Eight months later, after physical therapy, epidural injections, neurological and orthopedic treatment, she underwent a cervical fusion at C6-7, and filed suit against the defendant owner and operator. This being a rear-end collision, plaintiff was awarded summary judgment on liability back in 2016, and the damages trial commenced on November 8, 2017.
The trial involved 13 witnesses, including biomechanical experts, plaintiff’s spinal surgeon, Dr. Sebastian Lattuga, and multiple damages experts on both sides. The plaintiff’s strategy was to stress the lack of any prior complaints or injuries to the young plaintiff’s neck or back, and her consistent treatment after the accident, eventually leading to a necessary spinal fusion surgery. Our defense focused on the degenerative nature of herniations, and that the low-speed impact did not cause the cervical herniation.
In summation, plaintiff’s counsel asked for $7 million ($1.8 million past pain & suffering, $3.2 million future pain and suffering, and $2 million in future medicals, based upon her life care planner and economist, and claims of future fusion at C5-6.) We pressed for a defense verdict, based upon the lack of causation. We also took an aggressive approach during summation, arguing that plaintiff’s course of treatment and surgery was an orchestrated “money grab,” because the herniation could not have been caused by this minor impact. In the alternative, we recommended $300,000 as an appropriate award, if the jury found plaintiff proved causation and met the serious injury “threshold.”
During the 2nd day of deliberation, the jury awarded plaintiff the $300,000 we had suggested. (There was a high-low in place at the time of the verdict.) Seeing that the plaintiff’s final “bottom line” settlement demand during deliberations was $3 million, the verdict was a great outcome after a particularly long damages trial that involved ten expert witnesses. The jury was attentive throughout the trial, and we think, got this one right.