(Verdict June 26, 2011)
On August 4, 2004, the plaintiff, a 54 year old deli manager, was a passenger in a van driven by her husband. As they exited Route 107 onto Central Avenue in Bethpage, a van owned by Northrup Grumman Corporation and driven by its employee struck their Van from the rear. The Plaintiff sustained injuries to her back, neck, and both knees. The plaintiff sued Northrup Grumman and the driver alleging negligence of the driver and owner of the Van. The Court granted plaintiff’s application for summary judgment on liability. The trial concerned the issues of causation, serious injury under the no fault law, and the plaintiff’s damages.
Immediately following the accident, the plaintiff was taken by ambulance to the New Island Hospital where she was treated for back and neck pains, and released with pain medication and given instructions to follow up with her primary care physician. She followed up with her doctor who gave her pain medications and physical therapy. Two weeks later she was taken by ambulance to North Shore University Hospital at Manhasset where she was diagnosed with herniated discs C6-C7 and L5-S1 that included nerve root impingement, bulging discs from C3 through C7, and bilateral radiculopathy. She was also diagnosed with a tear of the left medial meniscus and fraying, a complex tear of the right medial meniscus, post-traumatic stress disorder and claimed she suffered from insomnia, panic attacks, depression and suffered from lack of sleep. She also underwent trigger point and epidural injections to address her back pain. On March 11, 2009 and August 14, 2009 she underwent arthroscopic knee surgeries to both her left and right knees. Her orthopedic surgeon recommended and was ready to perform a cervical and lumbar discectomy and spinal fusion. The plaintiff also underwent regular psychiatry sessions and continued the sessions right up until the time of trial. She also claimed she was taking 20 medications daily, she continued to treat with physical therapy three times a week up to the time of trial. She claimed she suffered from neck, back and leg pain. She told the jury that due to her injuries she was unable to work or engage in household or social activities, and that her inability to do these things caused her to fall into a deeper depression which impacted her relationship with her husband, family and friends. She also testified that before the accident, she regularly worked 60 hours a week, and had a good relationship with her husband. She also told the jury she had no personal or family history of psychiatric difficulties. Plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist told the jury that plaintiff was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and depression from this accident, and that all of her psychiatric injuries were caused from this accident.
Plaintiff told the jury that she was involved in three accidents before this one, but that two involved no injuries, and the third which involved an incident at work, she sought treatment for her lower back, and after four months she returned to work full time and all of her injuries fully resolved. Plaintiff’s boss testified and told the jury that the plaintiff was a top employee who loved her job and was physically capable of handling the demands of her job from the date she returned from her work incident until the date of this motor vehicle incident.
The defendants claimed that this was a low speed low impact accident and that all of plaintiff’s injuries pre-existed the accident and were caused from aggravated degenerative disc disease. At trial the defendant Driver told the jury that he was traveling no more than 5-10 mph and was only one foot away from the plaintiff’s van when he struck her in the rear. Yet on cross examination he admitted that he was actually traveling 15 mph upon impact and that there was 25 feet between his van and the plaintiff’s just before the impact. Plaintiff was also able to show at trial that the defendant driver was accelerating his Van just before the impact as he was going onto an entrance ramp on a highway. On cross, the driver also admitted that he gave multiple versions of what happened from the date of the accident until the time of trial, and that each account gave a version of a lower and lower impact.
Plaintiff’s treating neurologist told the jury that she diagnosed the plaintiff with permanent nerve damage to her neck with electrical diagnostic tests, and that those neurological injuries are disabling and permanent.
The defendants claimed that all of plaintiff’s injuries pre-existed her accident, and that she fabricated all of her injuries. The defendants produced three expert doctors, an orthopedist, a neurologist, and a radiologist. Their orthopedist had no opinion as to plaintiff’s injuries and did not perform a physical examination, but yet told the jury that all of injuries pre-dated this accident and she was suffering from degenerative disc disease. Defendant’s neurologist claimed to have performed a physical examination of the plaintiff for over an hour and found that she was not suffering from any objective neurological findings. He also attempted to discredit plaintiff’s treating neurologist who actually worked for him at the same hospital by claiming that her diagnostic testing was flawed. In addition, the neurologist told the jury that all of her injuries pre-existed this accident and she was probably suffering from fibromyalgia but not from the injuries claimed from this accident. Defendant’s radiologist stood up and showed the jury all of plaintiff’s injuries before and after the accident on her MRI films, and then told them that all of her injuries pre-existed her accident, and that she was suffering from an aggravated degenerative disc disease which she had for years before her accident. On cross the defense radiologist admitted that he testifies almost all of the time for defendants, and that he tells each jury the same thing over and over again in every case no matter who the plaintiff is and what their injuries are.
After 12 days of testimony, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in 20 minutes and then awarded her $1,324,500.00 in total damages. This verdict was listed by the NY Jury Verdict Reporter as one of the top 20 highest damages verdicts in Nassau County history involving a motor vehicle accident case.