April 13, 2023. Partner Jay Eidex scored a big victory for his client in a 4 day jury trial this week in the State Court of Fulton County involving a Plaintiff who was a former NBA player alleging that injuries from a car accident prevented him from making a comeback to the NBA. The Plaintiff was represented by a firm that proclaims themselves as the largest personal injury firm in the country. The accident involved the plaintiff and defendant both travelling westbound on Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell in September of 2019. The Plaintiff was driving a Camaro and was belted with a 4 point racing harness. The Defendant was driving a Smart car and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle as she merged lanes. She was cited for improper lane change. Negligence in this case was admitted. The Plaintiff did not seek any medical treatment on the date of loss.
The Plaintiff initially sought treatment for low back pain approximately 2 weeks after the accident. He ultimately underwent surgery to his lumbar spine (L5-S1) in April 2020. His medical bills including the surgery were approximately $168,000. He had been drafted by the New York Knicks in 2009 and had played for multiple teams in the NBA through the 2016-2017 season during which he played with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was released after that season. He further claimed past and future lost wages alleging that while he had not played in the NBA for 2 years, he was in the midst of making a “comeback” and attempting to play basketball professionally again. He alleged these injuries and surgery prevented that from happening and alleged his total lost wages to be in excess of $20 million. On cross examination he admitted to playing in a charity basketball exhibition in Montana roughly 2 week after the accident. Photographs of him dunking a basketball during that exhibition were admitted into evidence.
At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony from Dr. Harvinder Bhatti who presented himself as the Plaintiff’s treating neurosurgeon. Dr. Bhatti recommended that the Plaintiff obtain decompression surgery (lumbar microdiscectomy) for his back injuries on February 28, 2020. Dr. Bhatti acknowledged the Plaintiff’s prior medical history and disc-related back injuries before the motor vehicle accident. He further acknowledged that the Plaintiff ended his basketball career due to prior injuries but he believed the current issues all stemmed from the motor vehicle collision.
Plaintiff also presented Dr. Sean Mahan, M.D, a radiologist. Dr. Mahan acknowledged that the Plaintiff suffered from “herniated discs” prior to the auto accident. However, Dr. Mahan stated that the Plaintiff’s lumbar and spine injuries became more prevalent and severe because of the accident. Dr. Mahan explained that there was a “new bright signal at L5-S1” in the post-accident MRI on February 7, 2020. Plaintiff then presented Dr. Raymond Walkup, the surgeon that operated on the Plaintiff. Dr. Walkup described the surgery he performed on Plaintiff.
Next to address lost income, Plaintiff called Sara Ford, a Vocational Economic Analyst for Vocational Economic, Inc. She testified that her conclusion was that the Plaintiff would suffer losses in the amount of $21,853,196.00 due to the collision. Plaintiff also called his agent Kevin Bradbury who testified that his negotiations were “mostly focused” towards China. Mr. Bradbury stated that the yearly contract range for negotiations was probably between $1.2 to $1.5 million dollars. However, he admitted he had not secured Plaintiff a contract to play professional basketball in 2018, the year before the accident. He acknowledged that the Plaintiff had continuing and on-going back pain during the negotiation process following the Plaintiff’s final NBA season.
In the defense case, Mr. Eidex presented Dr. Barry Jeffries, a neuroradiologist. Dr. Jeffries testified that there was a significant “degenerative process” in the Plaintiff’s back. Dr. Jeffries further provided his expert opinion on the Plaintiff’s MRIs before and after the accident. Additionally, Dr. Jeffries stated the MRIs showed evidence of retrolisthesis which supports the conclusion that the Plaintiff’s back injuries are chronic. The MRIs show that the Plaintiff suffered from a herniated disc at L5-S1 before the accident and its severity did not significantly change when comparing the pre and post-accident MRIs. In fact, Dr. Jeffries found that the MRI images actually reflected an improvement in the condition of the Plaintiff’s back. He further rebutted Dr. Mahan’s findings of “increased signal” were false and misleading due to Dr. Mahan simply manipulating the contrast on the images.
The defense also called Marilyn Pacheco as a medical billing expert at Elevate Services to testify about the reasonable value of cost of medical services provided. After analyzing and reviewing the Plaintiff’s medical billing, Ms. Pacheco determined that the reasonable market value for medical services provided was $68,205.76, much less than claimed by the Plaintiff.
Finally, the defense presented Dr. Torrence Welch, a biomechanical engineer and David Buzdygon an accident reconstructionist. They performed a reconstruction and analysis and determined that the the change in velocity and forces involved in this accident were minimal. Dr. Welch testified that the the Plaintiff would likely have moved slightly forward and to the right immediately following impact; however, that movement would have been minimal and would have the effect of effects of vibrations and shaking motions. The Plainitff presented Dr. Michael Freeman in rebuttal of this biomechanical testimony.
In closing, Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to return a verdict in the amount of $22,017,949.94 plus an amount for pain and suffering at the jury’s discretion. Mr. Eidex asked the jury to award a defense verdict. The Jury deliberated for approximately 3 hours before returning a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff in the amount of $100,000.
The verdict was well below the defendant’s pre-trial offer of $225,000. Further the defense had filed an offer of settlement under O.C.G.A. 9-11-68 in that amount as well. Mr. Eidex announced his intention to file a motion for all of the fees and costs of the defense under the Offer of Settlement.
The Case is Jordan Hill v. Connie Frew, State Court of Fulton County CAFN 20EV002660.
Read more about Partner Jay Eidex here.