The firm would like to congratulate Sean P. Buggy for being appointed to serve as a Judge Pro Tempore for the Philadelphia County of Common Pleas, Civil Division.
Joseph P. Crane secured a defense verdict in favor of a large insurance carrier after a three day jury trial in Philadelphia County. The case was seeking underinsured motor vehicle coverage damages. The jury found that Plaintiff did sustain an injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident and awarded $5,000 for future medical bills. However, they found that Plaintiff’s injuries did not pierce the limited tort threshold and therefore did not award non-economic (pain/suffering) damages. The judge molded the verdict in consideration of the $15,000 tortfeasor credit owed to the insurance company resulting in no recovery for Plaintiff.
During the trial, Plaintiff and her expert alleged ongoing neck pain resulting in interruption of Plaintiff’s work and daily living activities in an effort to support claims of serious injury. Plaintiff had sparse treatment and there was a the minor impact. Plaintiff also didn’t miss any time from work, and had no restrictions set by any physician. The Plaintiff was not awarded a recovery and judgment was entered in favor of the Defendant.
Questions regarding this verdict can be directed to Mr. Crane.
David R. Friedman secured a defense verdict in favor of a large insurance carrier after a two day jury trial in Berks County. The matter involved a claim for uninsured motorist benefits from a motor vehicle accident in Reading, Pennsylvania. An uninsured driver rear-ended the Plaintiff. Plaintiff, at the scene, complained of chest pain and shortness of breath and was transported to a local hospital by ambulance. Plaintiff suffered a concussion, cervical sprain and strain and an exacerbation of lumbar degenerative disc disease and stenosis. The Plaintiff had chosen the “limited tort” option on her personal insurance policy and sought to recover non-economic damages from her own carrier. Plaintiff alleged that she suffered a “serious impairment of a body function” and therefore was entitled to recover non-economic damages for pain and suffering and loss of life’s pleasures.
During the trial, Plaintiff and her expert alleged ongoing pain and issues with work and activities of daily living to support the claims of seriousness regarding the injuries. At the end of the trial, the 12 person jury found factual cause of some injury but found that there was not serious impairment of a body function and found in favor of the Defendant insurance carrier. The Plaintiff was not awarded any damages and judgment was entered in favor of the Defendant.
Questions regarding this verdict can be directed to Mr. Friedman.
The defendant rear-ended plaintiff at 35 mph and defendant stipulated to liability. Plaintiff was 64 years old and claimed she sustained an aggravation of her pre-existing herniated discs in her cervical and lumbar spine. She underwent chiropractic treatment, injections and iontophoresis treatments with pain management. Her neurosurgeon expert, Rodwan Rajjoub, MD, opined that she sustained a myoligamentous cervical and lumbar sprain/strain with aggravation of the underlying herniated disc and spondylosis. He opined that she would require long term drug therapy treatment for her chronic pain.
Defendant’s expert orthopedic surgeon, Michael Raklewicz, M.D. opined that she sustained a cervical and lumbar sprain/strain with aggravation of her underlying spondylosis. He opined that her injuries would have resolved in 6 weeks to 3 months.
Plaintiff demanded $85,000. Plaintiff was offered $15,000. The jury awarded $7,500.
Randy Burch, Esquire successfully filed a motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiffs selection of the limited tort option. The Plaintiffs (husband and wife) commenced suit in Schuylkill County for alleged personal injuries arising from a single car accident when Plaintiff/wife was riding as a passenger in Defendant’s vehicle. The Plaintiff/husband asserted a consortium claim. The parties agreed that Plaintiffs’ right to recovery was subject to the limited tort provisions of 75 Pa.C.S. 1702 and 1705(d). Plaintiff claimed that she continued to suffer from lower back, left knee, and neck problems from the accident and that she was precluded from engaging in various household and recreational activities due to pain.
The Court noted that Plaintiff was required to present some evidence which may establish that she suffered a serious impairment of body function as a result of the subject accident and applied the standard set forth in Washington v. Baxter, 719 A.2d 733 (Pa. 1998). The Court found that Plaintiff failed to provide detailed information concerning her injuries and treatment in discovery and found Plaintiff’s responses to written discovery and deposition testimony to be vague. Also, the Court reviewed the medical evidence finding that Plaintiff had complaints of headache, neck and back pain immediately following the accident with an initial assessment of contusion. After the accident, the record showed that Plaintiff was discharged from physical therapy due to her non-compliance. A record from the treating doctor suggested a complete recovery from her alleged injuries at one point. The record also supported a finding that Plaintiff suffered from various non-accident related ailments like COPD, diabetes and other illnesses. Additionally, there was evidence that Plaintiff had prior and subsequent falls that resulted in some injury but were not adequately addressed by Plaintiff in discovery or in her doctor’s medical report. Furthermore, the Court noted that the report of Plaintiff’s treating doctor failed to demonstrate any objective medical evidence of a serious impairment of body function and failed to identify any causal relationship between the accident and Plaintiff’s complaints. As a result, the Court concluded that it would be futile to hold a trial on whether Plaintiff suffered a serious impairment of body function because Plaintiff failed to present sufficient proof to support her claim and judgment was entered in favor of the Defendant.
On December 1, 2015, G. Christopher Parrish obtained a defense verdict in Lehigh County. The Plaintiff claimed she sustained an injury to her cervical and lumbar spine, knees and elbows as a result of being rear-ended by the Defendant. Plaintiff had elected limited tort.
Plaintiff’s expert, Ron Ben-Meir, D.O., (physiatrist) testified that Plaintiff sustained a L4-5 disc herniation with impingement on the thecal sac, a permanent condition that was affecting her activities. Michael Brook, M.D. (neuro-radiologist) testified for the defense and opined that Plaintiff had a pre-existing herniated/osteophyte complex due to a chronic degenerative condition. Christopher Wagener, M.D. (orthopedic spine surgeon) testified for the defense that the L4-5 disc was degenerative and pre-existing and the Plaintiff sustained a lumbar strain and sprain that would have resolved in 6-8 weeks.
The jury found no serious impairment of body function and awarded $460.00 in wage loss.
On May 20, 2015, G. Christopher Parrish obtained a defense verdict in Northampton County. The Plaintiff claimed he sustained an injury to his cervical and lumbar spine as a result of being rear-ended by the Defendant. Plaintiff had elected limited tort.
Plaintiff’s expert, Gene Levinstein, M.D., (physiatrist) testified that Plaintiff sustained a L-3 transverse process fracture, traumatic lumbar spondylolisthesis (slippage of the L5-S1 disc) and cervical radiculopathy. James Reid, M.D.(orthopedic surgeon) testified for the defense and opined that Plaintiff did not sustain a fracture, traumatic spondylolisthesis or cervical radiculopathy and merely sustained a cervical strain and sprain that resolved within 3 – 6 months.
The jury deliberated for 25 minutes before finding no serious impairment of body function.
David Friedman recently secured a defense verdict for his client before a Berks County Jury. The Jury found 50% comparative negligence against the Plaintiff and awarded $0.00 in damages. The accident occurred on East Lancaster Avenue at its intersection with Lynoak Street in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Defendant’s vehicle was traveling behind Plaintiff’s vehicle as the two traveled westbound on East Lancaster Avenue. At the time of the accident, the roadway had been recently repaved but there were no lane markings, yet. The roadway was wide enough for two lanes and the Defendant believed that there were two lanes. Defendant stated that as the two vehicles approached the intersection, Plaintiff began to move left and activated his left-turn directional apparently to turn into the strip center near that intersection. Defendant then shifted to the right toward the curb and activated her right directional. Defendant believed that she was in the “right lane” and the Plaintiff was in the “left lane” as she pulled next to Plaintiff. As the Defendant was about to turn right, Plaintiff turned right directly into her vehicle. Plaintiff then got out of his vehicle and verbally accosted Defendant in a profane manner, which likely alienated the jury.
Plaintiff denied injury at the scene. Plaintiff did not seek medical treatment for 11 days after the accident. Thereafter, Plaintiff had two surgeries, a scope to his shoulder and a fusion to his neck. Plaintiff admitted to prior shoulder problems and but tried to deny prior neck problems despite medical records confirming those complaints. There were also other inconsistencies and contradictions in Plaintiff’s testimony. Plaintiff presented $25,000 in lost wages from his job as a police officer.
After a two day trial and three hours of deliberations, the jury found negligence apportioned 50/50 between Plaintiff and Defendant, and awarded zero damages. No post trial motions were filed.
In an effort to resolve a disputed issue in the area of bad faith litigation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently decided the issue of whether an insured’s bad faith claims can be assigned to third party plaintiffs. In Allstate Property & Casualty Ins. v. Wolfe, ___ A.3d___, (Dec. 15, 2014), the Court found that an insured’s right to bad faith claims can, in fact, be assigned to a third party. The Court’s decision was primarily based on its interpretation of the legislative intent of the commonwealth’s Bad Faith Statute, 42 Pa.C.S.A 8371.
The underlying case involved a 2007 motor vehicle accident, where third party defendant and Allstate insured, Karl Zierle, rear ended the vehicle driven by third party plaintiff Jared Wolfe, injuring Wolfe. Allstate and Wolfe failed to settle the claim and the case went to trial. At trial, the jury awarded Wolfe $15,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages. After the verdict was entered, Allstate satisfied the compensatory component of the judgment only, and did not indemnify Zierle for the punitive damages. Wolfe and Zierle then entered into an agreement whereby Wolfe agreed not to execute on the punitive damages portion of the verdict, in exchange for an assignment from Zierle of all his claims against Allstate. Wolfe then filed a bad faith action against Allstate.
The bad faith action proceeded to trial and the jury found bad faith on the part of Allstate and awarded Wolfe $50,000 in punitive damages. Allstate commenced an appeal in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the insurer maintained its continually held position that Wolfe lacked standing to sue Allstate. Acknowledging that there had been conflicting decisions in in Pennsylvania and federal courts concerning the assignability of a right to damages under 42 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 8371, the Third Circuit lodged a certification petition with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which was then granted by the Court.
Appellant Allstate argued that sanctioning assignments of punitive-damages claims under Section 8371 would create trouble by encouraging plaintiffs to pursue unreasonable settlement demands and advance bad-faith claims that otherwise never would have been initiated. Wolfe, on the other hand, argued that allowing the transfer would advance public policy in encouraging settlement and fostering the efficient litigation of claims, along with serving Section 8371’s purpose of deterrence. Wolf also centered his argument on the public policies supporting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s prior determination that bad-faith claims grounded in contract theory are assignable.
The Court reasoned that because the statute said nothing about assignability of claims within its provision, the principles of statutory construction should apply. It then engaged in the determination of the intent of the legislature through the language of the Bad Faith Statue. In the end, the Court found in favor of Wolfe’s argument and held that the intent of the General Assembly was not to prevent such assignments and that doing so would neither hinder settlement nor encourage additional litigation. The Court then held that the entitlement to assert damages under the Pennsylvania Bad Faith Statute may be assigned to an injured plaintiff/judgment creditor by an insured.
After a two day trial before the Judge Lachman, a Philadelphia jury in Rosa v. Roman returned a defense verdict under the limited tort doctrine. The Jury, after less than one hour of deliberation, found plaintiff’s’ complaints constant lumbar pain did not breach the limited tort threshold. The jury unanimously rejected Plaintiff’s claims of a “serious impairment of a body function” as required to breach the limited tort threshold. Defendant had conceded negligence for the accident.
Plaintiff submitted the medical records of his treating physician, an EMG and a report from a pain management specialist opining that plaintiff suffered lumbar radiculopathy caused by the accident. The MRI report noted various degenerative changes. Plaintiff did not seek emergency medical treatment after the accident nor did Plaintiff report the accident to his treating physician when seen six (6) days after the accident. Only two months after the accident, plaintiff had joined a dancing class and had started weight lifting. Plaintiff initially received three (3) months of physical therapy and then didn’t treat for two (2) years. Plaintiff also failed to tell his doctors about his subsequent fall down accident which was revealed during discovery.
Please contact Mr. Bush at Forry Ullman with any questions.