On June 14, 2016, James V. Deegan successfully obtained a defense verdict after a 5 day jury trial and only 3 hours of deliberation in the Supreme Court, Bronx County before Judge Faviola Soto. The case of Schneider v. Isabella City Carting, et al., arose out of a two vehicle collision that occurred on June 14th, 2010, on 138th Street when plaintiff attempted a left turn in front of defendant in order to enter the Major Deegan Expressway. Plaintiff claimed to have had a green turning arrow. Defendant, Adam Hernandez, operating a sanitation truck owned by Isabella City Carting, claimed he had a green light in his favor and that plaintiff jumped the light in front of his garbage truck. The trial was bifurcated. Plaintiff had previously obtained a favorable liability verdict with a 55% finding of liability against defendants. The same jury returned to participate in the damages phase of the trial.
The critical issues at trial were whether plaintiff’s neck fusion surgery, nerve damage limiting use of his arm, and the additional injuries to his shoulder and back constituted a serious injury pursuant to the New York Insurance law. The jury had to answer whether plaintiff sustained a permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member and/or a significant limitation of use of a body function or system and if so, the extent of any past and future damages to be awarded plaintiff while also considering the need for future surgeries and treatment.
During closing arguments, plaintiff requested $6.3 Million; $3 Million of which was for past pain and suffering, $3 Million for future pain and suffering, and $300,000.00 for future surgery and treatment. The jury returned a defense verdict determining that plaintiff did not sustain either a consequential permanent limitation or a significant limitation of a body part or function stemming from the accident.
Plaintiff alleged the accident caused injury to his neck, arm, shoulder and back, including a traumatic disc herniation to the C5-C6 disc with spinal compression and confirmed radiculopathy down his right shoulder and arm and into his right hand, with nerve damage stemming from the compression on the spinal cord. These injuries, plaintiff offered, resulted in a discectomy and fusion surgery with hardware installed, with limited and restricted use of his right non-dominate arm. Plaintiff offered the expert testimony of his initial orthopedic surgeon and his spine surgeon, both of whom testified that the accident caused the traumatic herniation that required fusion surgery and nerve damage resulting in limited use of his right arm.
Mr. Deegan convinced the jury that plaintiff suffered from a pre-existing degenerative spinal condition unrelated to the accident and that the accident did not cause a traumatic rupture of the C5-C6 disc. Mr. Deegan conceded to the jury that plaintiff sustained a whiplash injury but argued such injury resolved over 4-6 months time. Mr. Deegan also proved that plaintiff’s activities post accident were basically unchanged from his pre-accident activities.
Defendants relied upon expert testimony of an orthopedist, neurologist, and radiologist, all of whom opined that plaintiff did not suffer a herniated disc from the accident, merely soft tissue injuries that fully resolved within months of the accident, and that the fusion surgery and nerve damage was a result of the naturally progressing degenerative disc disease rather than a trauma from the accident.