Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Defense Verdict Secured in Luzerne County Auto Accident Case

I am happy to report that I was able to secure a defense verdict yesterday (12/8/10) in favor of my client in the automobile accident case of Brunson v. Caldwell which was tried over two days in front of a jury and presiding Judge Joseph Cosgrove in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas.

Basic Facts:

Seven (7) years ago, on September 29, 2003, the Defendant was traveling on Coal Street and came upon a line of traffic and came to a stop. After a minute or two, and after seeing other cars in the line of traffic move out to the left and proceed up to the left turn lane a couple hundred yards ahead, the Defendant decided to do the same.

As she pulled out and began to proceed up the lane, almost simultaneously, i.e. a second or two later, the Plaintiff's vehicle came out from a stop sign on a side street and attempted to make a left hand turn across the path of the Defendant's vehicle. A low speed collision resulted.

Both parties agreed that, under the Motor Vehicle Code, the Defendant's maneuver of coming out of the line of traffic to move up ahead was permitted as long as it was safe to do so.

The now 36 year old Plaintiff argued that the Defendant was negligent in that she pulled most of her vehicle across the double yellow line as she pulled ahead and that it was not safe for her to have attempted this maneuver given that the Plaintiff was making a left hand turn.

We argued on the defense that the Defendant was adamant that she remained in her lane of travel, which was very wide, as she did this maneuver and that the Plaintiff's vehicle came out in such a sudden fashion as the Defendant had no opportunity to avoid the accident.

We also argued that, under the law, it was of no moment that the Defendant allegedly crossed the double yellow line during her maneuver. It was our position that the Motor Vehicle Code allowed her to do this as long as it was safe to do so. We also argued that the evidence supported the Defendant's testimony that it was safe for her to proceed as she did--i.e., since the Plaintiff proceeded with his left hand turn, there must have been no vehicles coming up in the opposite direction at the same time the Defendant was doing her maneuver.

We also asserted on the defense, that not only was the Defendant not negligent, but that the Plaintiff's negligence in coming out from a stop sign and making a left turn when it was not safe to do so was the true cause of the accident.

Damages Claims:

The Plaintiff primarily asserted neck and low back injuries. The Plaintiff also claimed, through expert testimony by neurosurgeon, Dr. David Sedor, that he needed surgery on both his cervical spine and lumbar spine.

The Defense asserted, through expert testimony by orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Michael P. Banas, that the Plaintiff sustained soft tissue sprain/strain injuries to his neck and back along with an aggravation of pre-existing degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine. Dr. Banas asserted that the Plaintiff was not a surgical candidate and also confirmed that none of the Plaintiff's other physicians had found him to be a surgical candidate.

It was also asserted by the defense on cross-examination of the Plaintiff that the Plaintiff was not as hurt as alleged. The force of the impact was minimized (no airbags activated in either vehicle) and pictures showing minimal property damages were shown to the jury.

It was additionally established that the Plaintiff did not seek out any medical treatment until about a week after the accident. Also, after an initial course of treatment, there was a three and a half year gap in any treatment before the Plaintiff went to see Dr. Sedor for the first time. There was also another one and a half year gap in treatment between the Plaintiff's last treatment with Dr. Sedor and the date of trial.

The jury was also advised through cross-examination efforts, that the Plaintiff had continued to work over the past seven years since the accident as the owner-operator of his own hair salon, had been on trips to multiple trips to both Europe and Florida, and had even been on one or two roller coasters on a trip to Great Adventure in New Jersey.

The Verdict:

The jury was out in deliberations for about 40 minutes. When they came back, they announced that they had unanimously answered "No" to the first question on the verdict slip, i.e. "Was the Defendant negligent?"

Of course, past results are no guarantee of future results and each case must be handled on its own merits.

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