Monday, September 10, 2012

Defense Verdict Secured in Recent Luzerne County Auto Accident Trial

I recently finalized the resolution of a matter of mine that was tried to a defense verdict back in June.  Here's a synopsis of the case:

Name of Case: Nicholas Marino v. Brianna L. Lizza and Linda Ann Lizza

Trial Verdict: Zero defense verdict returned by jury in favor of Defendant

Date: June 12, 2012

Court/Docket No: Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas/1939 of 2010 Civil

Judge: Judge Michael T. Vough

Type of Action: Personal Injury

Defense Attorney: Daniel E. Cummins of Foley, Comerford & Cummins, Scranton, PA

Plaintiff’s Expert: Dr. David S. Sedor, neurosurgeon, Wilkes-Barre, PA

Defense Expert: Dr. Thomas A. Allardyce, orthopedic surgeon, Wilkes-Barre, PA


This matter involves a motor vehicle accident that occurred under wintry on February 12, 2008 at approximately 1:00 p.m. on Main Street in Old Forge, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. The Plaintiff, Nicholas Marino, came to a stop to make a turn and the vehicle of the Defendant, Brianna Lizza, slid on the ice and snow into the rear of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.

At trial, the Plaintiff testified that he continued to experience pain from his neck, upper back, and shoulder injuries, which disrupted his activities of daily living both at work and outside of work. The Plaintiff sought to recover damages for pain and suffering and for past medical expenses.

At trial, the defense admitted liability and conceded, through the defense medical expert, that the Plaintiff had sustained, at most, a soft tissue cervical spine sprain injury.

At trial, on cross-examination of the Plaintiff, the defense pointed out that, although the Plaintiff repeatedly denied any prior neck or back complaints in his Answers to Interrogatories and during his deposition testimony, the prior medical records confirmed extended prior complaints and treatment for both neck and upper back issues.

The defense also offered evidence at trial that the rear-end impact at issue was minimal in nature from the perspective of the Defendant. The Defendant testified that her vehicle did not need to be repaired after the accident.

The jury was also informed that, as a result of the accident, the Plaintiff did not sustain any loss of consciousness, was not bleeding, and did not sustain any broken bones. The Plaintiff was able to exit his vehicle under his own power at the scene of the accident.

The Plaintiff also refused an ambulance and did not report to any emergency room. Rather, the Plaintiff drove himself from the scene of the accident to his family doctor, who did not order any x-rays. The Plaintiff was then able to drive himself home from his family doctor’s office.

Following the Plaintiff’s initial treatment with the family doctor, the Plaintiff primarily treated with a chiropractor and then saw a physiatrist, Dr. Albert Janerich, and the neurosurgeon, Dr. David S. Sedor.

The jury was also informed that the Plaintiff did not miss any time from his employment as a supervisor in a business that assisted local supermarkets with their various displays in stores. The Plaintiff also agreed, on cross-examination, that he remained capable of continuing to perform most of his activities of daily living with modifications, including his ongoing involvement in Little League baseball coaching every year since the accident.

By way of videotape deposition, the Plaintiff’s neurosurgeon, Dr. David S. Sedor opined that the Plaintiff sustained neck, upper back, and shoulder injuries as a result of the accident. Dr. Sedor further testified that the Plaintiff’s cervical spine injuries were permanent and could progress to require surgery in the future possibly followed by the need for a spinal cord stimulator.

The defense presented the videotape testimony of Dr. Thomas Allardyce, an orthopedic surgeon who completed the IME of the Plaintiff. It was Dr. Allardyce’s opinion that the records confirmed that the Plaintiff sustained a cervical spine strain injury as a result of the accident. The doctor also testified that this type of injury would ordinarily resolve within 12 weeks. The defense expert also opined that the positive findings on the Plaintiff’s post-accident MRI studies were degenerative in nature and not traumatic in nature.

Despite this testimony, the IME doctor also conceded that, if the Plaintiff’s ongoing subjective cervical spine complaints were believed, the doctor would have to relate them to the subject accident in the absence of any other trauma or conditions.

During closing arguments, the defense confirmed to the jury that liability was admitted and that the defense medical expert had confirmed that the Plaintiff sustained a soft tissue cervical spine sprain injury, the kind of which that should have resolved within several months of the accident. The defense requested the jury to enter an award consistent with the evidence presented, including the evidence of the minimal impact of the Plaintiff’s alleged injuries on his activities of daily living.

During the court’s provision of instructions to the jury, the jury was advised that given, the fact that the defense had admitted liability and conceded an injury, the Plaintiff was entitled to an award.

Nevertheless, after deliberating for approximately 35 minutes, the jury returned a zero (0) verdict.

After the jury was dismissed, and given the possibility of an appeal of the zero verdict entered, the parties remained in the courthouse and eventually negotiated a settlement of the case for $15,000.00. The last settlement offer prior to the commencement of the trial was $34,400.00.

[Past results are no guarantee of future results and each case must be handled on its own merits.]

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