Pursuant to the New York Jury Verdict Reporter, WRSH partner Frank J. Lombardo obtained the highest recorded verdict in the State of New York for a single level cervical discectomy. A Suffolk County jury awarded an $8.3 million verdict to our client who, on October 2, 2014, was attempting to make a left turn onto the westbound service road of the Long Island Expressway when her vehicle was struck by a commercial van traveling in the opposite direction. The plaintiff had the right-of way with a green left-turning arrow in her favor, and the defendant went through the red light controlling traffic in his direction. As a result of the impact, the plaintiff’s neck snapped forward and backward, and she felt immediate pain in her neck, which had a prior three-level cervical spine fusion.
Prior to trial, through the efforts of WRSH partner Joseph Stoduto, we obtained summary judgment on the issue of liability on the basis that the defendant went through a red light traveling in the opposite direction. Despite being found responsible for the accident, the defendants’ insurer refused to settle the case and presented a $75,000.00 settlement offer prior to and during trial. The defendants’ attorney argued that after the accident, the plaintiff went to work and did not seek medical treatment for four weeks and the herniated disc was a result of “adjacent level syndrome” from the prior three-level fusion. In addition, the defendants argued that the plaintiff did not miss any time from her employment as an administrative assistant until after her cervical discectomy in 2016.
Four weeks subsequent to the accident, our client was seen by her orthopedic spinal surgeon, who performed the previous three-level cervical fusion at the C3 to C6 for a prior degenerative condition almost two years prior to the motor vehicle accident. As a result of our accident, the plaintiff sustained a C6-7 herniated disc with nerve root and spinal cord impingement, whereby she underwent a radical total discectomy. She also developed chronic pain syndrome and was unable to work following the discectomy resulting from the motor vehicle accident.
Through testimony from the client’s treating orthopedic surgeon and by cross-examination of the defendants’ orthopedic expert, Frank was able to demonstrate that our client’s previous medical condition made her more susceptible to an injury to the lower disc. Frank was also able to show, by the use of prior and subsequent diagnostic films and the testimony of an expert neuro-radiologist, that the plaintiff did not have a prior degenerative condition at the C6-7 level and that the impact caused a new herniation. By placing the client’s pain management physician on the witness stand, Frank was also able to show that, because of the plaintiff’s continued complaints of pain to date, she also sustained chronic pain syndrome in the crash, her condition is permanent, and she will need additional surgeries in the future.
Frank had experts in the fields of vocational rehabilitation, life-care planning, and economics to convince the jury that due to the plaintiff’s current chronic pain condition and her permanent loss of function of her cervical spine, she will be unable to obtain employment in the future, as well as her future loss of earnings and the cost of her future medical care.
The jury deliberated for six hours over the course of two days and rendered a unanimous verdict awarding our client $600,000 for past pain and suffering and $2.6 million for future pain and suffering (41 years); $206,000 for past lost earnings, $3,174,465 for future lost earnings (27 years) and $1,747,846 for medical expenses (41 years).