March 13, 2023.  Senior Associate Kevin James won a defense verdict in a case that was tried to a jury in the Superior Court of Gwinnett County before Judge George Hutchinson.   The suit arose from a motor vehicle collision that occurred on August 10, 2017 when the Defendant  was traveling on Riverside Parkway at its intersection with SR 120 in Duluth, Gwinnett County.   Plaintiff was stopped at a traffic light, when Defendant struck the rear end of Plaintiff’s Volkswagon Jetta.  The damage to the vehicles was moderate.  The plaintiff made no complaints of injury or pain at the scene.

Plaintiff reported to the ER at Gwinnett Medical Center on the night of the accident with complaints of neck and back pain and was diagnosed with cervical strain as well as thoracic and lumbar pain.  Seven days later she presented to a chiropractor who ordered MRI scans of her lumbar spine.  She underwent chiropractic treatment for 1.5 months before discontinuing her care for non-traditional forms of treatment, including acupuncture. After no relief from non-traditional care, she presented to a variety of doctors over a 5 year period including an othopedic surgeon who ordered additional MRI studies of her cervical and lumbar spine which found multiple disc herniations. Plaintiff received epidural injections, physical therapy and received recommendations for cervical nerve root block and ACDF surgery. Plaintiff never followed the recommendation for cervical nerve root block or ACDF surgery. The medical damages were approximately $44,000 without considering the surgical recommendation.

At trial, Plaintiff presented medical testimony by way of video deposition from Dr. Linville at Barbour Orthopaedics.  Dr. Linville provided an opinion that all of the Plaintiff’s complaints were related to the motor vehicle accident and assigned a 24% whole body permanent impairment rating.  He further indicated she would benefit from ACDF surgery, subject to reevaluation. In addition to Dr. Linville, Plaintiff presented video deposition testimony from radiologist, Dr. McKeown of American Health Imaging. Dr. McKeown testified that Plaintiff had multiple herniations identified on her cervical MRI and that it was highly likely these herniation were caused by the accident if Plaintiff had no prior symptoms or complaints. Dr. McKeown also testified it was highly unlikely that Plaintiff would ever fully recover.  Defendant provided expert testimony from Dr. Barry Jeffries, a neuroradiologist who opined that the conditions identified on the MRI scans were all chronic and degenerative in nature and that there was no evidence of an acute injury which could be related to the motor vehicle accident.

In closing the Plaintiff asked the jury to award a verdict in the range of approximately 2.4 million to 139 million dollars for past special damages and past and future general damages, including pain and suffering.  Mr. James asked the jury to find the Plaintiff failed to prove this accident was the cause of Plaintiff’s alleged injuries; however, in the alternative, this accident caused no more than a muscle strain at best and asked the jury to only award Plaintiff’s $8,093 in 2017 treatment and no more than $2,000 in pain and suffering.  The jury deliberated for approximately 4 hours before returning a defense verdict.

The Case is Maritza I. Martinez Salazar v. Tandrinia K. Bennett, Superior Court of Gwinnett County CAFN 19-A-06394-1.

Read more about Senior Associate Kevin James here.

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