Jury rules for plaintiff following rear-end crash

By Thomas Franz
BridgeTower Media Newswires
 
DETROIT — An Oakland County Circuit Court jury recently ruled in favor of a plaintiff who claimed that a car accident was a leading cause for her needing cervical fusion surgery, which disabled her from work and physical activity for three months.

In Brown v. Calso, plaintiff’s counsel had to overcome the fact that the plaintiff was still able to participate in Zumba and cardio-kickboxing for several months after the accident.

“Leading up to trial, one of the main things we wanted was for the doctors to relate the fusion to the crash,” said plaintiff’s counsel Sean Murphy. “Her surgeon gave us what we needed, that the crash was a cause for the need for surgery.”

The jury rendered a verdict of $550,625 in the third-party auto negligence non-economic case.

The 2014 accident occurred when the plaintiff was exiting I-275 in Novi when she was rear-ended by defendant at a red light.

Plaintiff’s counsel reported that the impact was at a low speed, but there was damage done to the frame of her vehicle.

The plaintiff still finished her commute to work, but later that day went to the emergency room with neck and upper back pain. She followed up with a chiropractor and began physical therapy.
During that time, she also continued working at a desk job and participating in fitness classes.

After several months, plaintiff’s neck pain persisted and she met with two doctors who recommended a cervical fusion operation.

After her surgery, plaintiff couldn’t work or participate in physical activity for three months, and she has permanent 30-percent range of motion loss in the neck.

Jason Waechter, another attorney for the plaintiff, said that the estimate from the body shop that fixed the vehicle following the collision proved to be a key to proving the accident was a cause for requiring surgery.

“Going through that very carefully, I found that there was labor for bending the frame, so I pointed out that even though it was a low-impact crash, there was still enough force to bend the frame of the car, so imagine what it did to her neck,” Waechter said. “I think that resonated with the jury.”

Waechter said the accident wasn’t a direct hit, and pictures of the vehicle didn’t show much damage.

“The bumper just had some scuffs on it and the trunk had a little crease on it,” Waechter said. “It’s not the damage, it’s the force.”

Plaintiff’s counsel said the key point in the case was the testimony from two doctors who said the accident was a cause for surgery despite the plaintiff’s underlying spondylosis before the crash.

“The accident really did get her to the point of surgery. Despite having this condition, she was asymptomatic prior to the crash. The records show she was never complaining of neck pain before
the crash,” Murphy said.

Plaintiff’s counsel said the testimony of Dr. Phillip Friedman, who performed an independent medical examination on behalf of plaintiff's no-fault insurance carrier in 2016, was also crucial.

On the defense side, attorney Marc Saurbier said his main strategy was to show that the plaintiff had spondylosis, which is a long-term condition that causes disc protrusion and irritation.

“There was no question that the plaintiff had pain after this, but the strategy was to show the pain was secondary and the need for surgery was due to the underlying condition which was getting worse and not because of the crash,” Saurbier said.

Saurbier used testimony from a doctor as well as medical records and an MRI image to back up his arguments.

“After the accident, she did have pain, but the accident didn’t cause her spine to keep breaking down. The underlying condition caused her spine to keep breaking down, and that’s why she needed the surgery,” Saurbier said.

When looking back on a turning point in the case, Saurbier said the plaintiff’s personality played a key role in front of the jury.

“I think the plaintiff was a delightful and very likable person. She was very athletic and energetic, and I think the jury liked her and I don’t think they understood the underlying medicine,” Saurbier said.

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