Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Westchester Partner Allyson Avila obtained a favorable verdict in a Bronx County motor vehicle accident case that occurred in 2016. The insured's driver rear-ended the plaintiff, and summary judgment on the issue of liability was granted in 2017 against the insured. The plaintiff had back surgery and claimed lost earnings in the past and future, past medical and future medical expenses. The plaintiff's attorney asked the jury to award $3.0 M in damages. The insured offered $250,000 before the trial to resolve. The plaintiff's demand fluctuated from $1.5 M to $800,000.
The plaintiff was 31 years old at the time of the incident with no prior medical history. The firm's expert reviewed the MRI films taken after the accident and believed that the MRI revealed a traumatic herniation. He could not say for certain if this accident was the cause of the herniation – which made the case more difficult.
The Gordon & Rees team received the case after the close of discovery and when the case was initially scheduled for trial. The plaintiff's counsel never disclosed that the plaintiff did have a prior MRI in 2015 (only eight months before this accident). However, upon a fortuitous question to the life care planner, we learned that the plaintiff had an MRI in 2015 of his lumbar spine. The plaintiff's surgeon was unaware of this MRI and could not refute the findings.
After two weeks of trial, numerous battles with the judge assigned to the case, and rulings contrary to the rules of evidence – the jury unanimously found plaintiff did not satisfy the threshold requirements. He was awarded only $50,000 in future medical expenses. The plaintiff's counsel spent upwards of $40,000 on experts, and the plaintiff also had a law loan that would need to be repaid.
It was an unbelievable victory because the liability was already assessed against the insured. But one item of law that all New York attorneys need to be aware of is that a plaintiff can still recover economic loss even if they don't meet the threshold.