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Automobile accident

April 26, 2011
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Trial Report

Melissa Miller v. Crossroads Rehabilitation Center, Inc. and John Gocke
Marion Superior Court # 10
No. 49D10-0901-CT-002353
Injuries: Multiple physical symptoms that included headaches, dizziness, memory loss, nausea, bilateral ankle pain, right shoulder pain, mouth pain, cervical pain, thoracic pain, and lumbar pain.
Date: May 19, 2010
Judge or Jury Trial: Jury trial
Judge: Hon. David Dreyer
Disposition: Plaintiff verdict after reduction for comparative fault: $848,800
Plaintiff Attorney: Jason A. Shartzer, Louis Buddy Yosha, and Richard A. Cook, Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch
Defendant Attorney: Andrea Simmons, The Pollack Law Firm
Case Information: On Feb. 15, 2007, at approximately 9 a.m., plaintiff was driving her 2003 Chevy Impala northbound on North Arlington Avenue approaching East 21st Street in Indianapolis. The defendant was driving a 1997 Ford semi in the left northbound lane on North Arlington Avenue. As plaintiff was proceeding through the intersection in the right northbound lane, the defendant attempted to make a wide right hand turn onto East 21st Street. and collided with the driver’s side of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

Liability was in dispute. The plaintiff argued that defendant should have kept a proper lookout and that defendant swung so far wide to make the right turn that a portion of his trailer was actually in the dedicated left-turn lane. The plaintiff argued that had the defendant looked, he would have seen the plaintiff’s vehicle. The police officer that investigated the collision testified that a portion of the defendant’s trailer was in the dedicated left turn lane at the time of the collision. The defendant argued that the plaintiff should have seen the semi’s right turn signal and known that the defendant was making a wide, right turn. The defendant also implied in argument that the plaintiff was on her cell phone at the time of the collision and introduced evidence that she was running late for work.  

Plaintiff initially refused medical attention at the scene of the collision and went to her job as a nurse for a medical doctor. She did, however, report her complaints of pain to her employer when she arrived at work, and later that day she sought medical treatment at St. Francis Hospital. She followed up with her family physician.

Plaintiff underwent MRI testing that revealed a broad-based, central disc herniation at C5-C6 with no stenosis or effacement. She was diagnosed with right cervical radiculopathy and underwent a CT scan of her head which was ultimately negative. She continued to have multiple physical symptoms and continued to undergo treatment that included consultation with a neurologist and MRIs.

Plaintiff stated in her discovery responses and testified in her deposition that she suffered from multiple injuries to multiple parts of her body with the most severe injury, in her opinion, being a brain injury. Although Melissa experienced brain injury-type symptoms, the objective tests and the information from her treating physicians was insufficient to support a claim for a brain injury related to the collision. The plaintiff’s claim for damages at trial was focused on her herniated disc at C5-C6. One of plaintiff’s treating doctors testified in advance of trial that the herniation was caused by the collision and that it was a permanent condition.

Plaintiff incurred approximately $47,600 in medical expenses, almost half of which was diagnostic in nature. She did not make a claim for wage loss. Plaintiff was 34 at the time of trial and there was testimony from her doctor that she would have future medical expenses related to her herniated disc and that she would likely become a surgical candidate.

Prior to trial, plaintiff’s last demand was $148,000 (which was withdrawn prior to trial) and the defendant’s last offer was $50,000. After the first day of trial, defendant increased its offer to $100,000. Also, prior to trial, plaintiff had suggested high/low parameters of $465,000 and $75,000. The defendant rejected the high/low parameters.

At the conclusion of a two-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $1 million, but the jury also allocated the plaintiff a little more than 15 percent comparative fault. The judgment for the plaintiff after the reduction for comparative fault was $848,800.

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