The plaintiff bus driver, in her late 40s, contended that the defendant truck driver negligently failed to make adequate observations as he was making a right turn. The plaintiff contended that as a result, the bus was struck in the rear while it was stopped to pick up passengers. The plaintiff maintained that the impact caused a lumbar and a cervical herniation.
The plaintiff contended that the sudden movements that she made within the bus in reacting to the impact caused neck and back injuries that manifested immediately. The plaintiff maintained that she presented to the emergency room with neck and back pain that was documented in the chart. The plaintiff contended that cervical and lumbar herniations were confirmed by MRI a short time thereafter. The plaintiff missed three months from work following the accident, during which time she received treatment that included three epidural injections.
The plaintiff maintained that it ultimately became apparent that such treatment was inadequate, and that she underwent surgery that included an anterior cervical discectomy and interbody fusion at C5-6, as well as a decompressive laminectomy at L4-S1 and interbody and posterolateral fusion at L4-L5-S1 with posterior pedicle screw fixation at L4-S1 and right iliac bone harvest. The cervical surgery was performed approximately 21 months after the collision and the lumbar surgery 27 months. The plaintiff contended that despite the surgical intervention, she will suffer permanent pain and difficulties sitting or standing for long periods.
The plaintiff returned to work and contended that she works despite significant continuing pain and discomfort, that she has to work because of economic necessity and that the need is heightened by her attempts to take care of her husband who has his own health issues.
The defendant denied that the subject collision caused injury that led to the surgeries. The defendant’s bio-mechanical engineer concluded that the plaintiff’s injuries could not have occurred as the result of this incident, pointing to evidence of low impact forces and minimal property damage involved. The defendant also pointed out that no one else claimed to have suffered injury as a result of the collision.
The defendant maintained that it was likely that degenerative disc disease progressed significantly during a lengthy gap in treatment following her recovery from the injuries sustained in this accident, which the defendant maintained were soft tissue in nature, and maintained that the progression of that degeneration was likely accelerated by factors that were unrelated to the subject collision, including obesity, persistent bus driving, smoking, and her normal activities of daily living. The defendant also pointed out that prior to the accident, the plaintiff had some intermittent episodes of lower back pain, with one episode of neck pain.
The plaintiff countered that these episodes were temporary and contended that the prior episodes of lumbar pain were probably related to some degree to recurrent urinary tract infections. The plaintiff elicited testimony during the deposition of a defense physician that kidney problems can produce some back pain. The plaintiff would have also argued that the jury should consider that she was never referred to an orthopedist, neurologist, neurosurgeon, chiropractor, or for any MRIs or other diagnostic tests as a result of these complaints. The plaintiff would have also pointed out that the lumbar MRI showed not signs of spinal stenosis or other indications of degenerative disc disease.
The plaintiff would have also maintained that in view of the history of the pain and weakness commending at the time of the subject collision, the description of the sudden movements that she made in reacting to the impact, and the absence of signs of preexisting degenerative disc disease, it was clear that the need for surgery was the subject collision.
The case settled prior to trial for $900,000.
Plaintiff’s neurosurgeon expert: Joseph Koziol, M.D. from Livingston, NJ. Defendant’s bio mechanical engineer expert: Howard Medoff, PhD, PE from State College, PA. Defendant’s neurosurgeon expert: George Jacobs, M.D. from Newark, NJ.
V. v. U. and E.E. Docket no. ESX-L-9701-09, 04-11
Attorneys for plaintiff: Charles A. Cerussi of Cerussi & Gunn, P.C. of Shrewsbury, NJ and Michael Carton of Kroll Heineman Carton, LLC of Iselin, NJ.