Date of Verdict: April 11.
Court and Case No.: C.P. Delaware No. 11-007963.
Judge: Christine Fizzano Cannon.
Type of Action: Motor vehicle.
Injuries: Post-traumatic headaches, cervical strain and sprain, among other injuries.
Plaintiffs Counsel: Warren I. Siegel and Melissa R. Paris, Bernhardt, Rothermel & Siegel, Philadelphia.
Defense Counsel: Daniel M. Brown, William J. Ferren & Associates, Blue Bell, Pa.
Plaintiffs Experts: Dr. Michael M. Cohen, neurology, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.; Dr. Maxwell Stepanuk, orthopedics, Elkins Park, Pa.
Defense Experts: Dr. Stephen L. Fedder, neurology, Wynnewood, Pa.
Comment: A Delaware County jury has awarded a $1.35 million verdict to a woman who was injured in a side-impact collision at an intersection by a driver she claimed had turned too widely and had been driving too fast.
According to plaintiff Carolyn Breazeale’s attorney, Warren I. Siegel, the parties entered into a high-low agreement before the trial, the terms of which he would not disclose.
When the parties filed pretrial statements, however, the plaintiff’s demand was $245,000. When Breazeale filed her pretrial settlement conference memorandum in December 2012, the defendant, Katherine Bowker, had not offered anything to settle the case, the memo said.
According to Siegel, when the case got to trial, the defense agreed to a high-low.
Siegel said the case turned on the jury’s recognition that the plaintiff surpassed the limited tort threshold of having a serious impairment.
Following a two-day trial before Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon, the jury returned a verdict in Breazeale’s favor on April 11. According to a release from Siegel’s law firm, Bernhardt, Rothermel & Siegel, announcing the verdict, the jury awarded $1 million for past and future medical expenses and $200,000 for lost wages, as well as $150,000 in non-economic damages — $75,000 for pain and suffering and $75,000 for loss of life’s pleasures.
The accident took place October 15, 2010, at the intersection of Lansdowne Avenue and Providence Road in Yeadon, Pa. Breazeale was turning left onto Providence from Lansdowne as the defendant was turning right onto Lansdowne from Providence.
Breazeale had a green light and Bowker had a green right-turn arrow, according to court records.
Liability was a contested issue, but Bowker admitted before trial that she never saw the plaintiff cross the double-yellow line before impact, the law firm’s release said. That fact lent credence to the plaintiff’s theory that Bowker did not turn sharply enough to avoid crossing into oncoming traffic, Siegel said.
“If you don’t hug the curve, you’re going into the oncoming traffic,” Siegel said.
Breazeale had a Safe Auto Insurance policy at the time of the accident, in which she had selected the limited tort option.
She claimed she suffered from post-traumatic headaches, cervical strain and sprain, cervical pain secondary to disc herniations at four levels, left upper extremity radiculopathy, left lower extremity radiculopathy and other injuries.
Breazeale’s pretrial memo highlighted an orthopedist’s opinion that many of her injuries were a result of the accident and that she was a surgical candidate for interventional spine care.
At trial, neurologist Dr. Michael M. Cohen opined that Breazeale was going to need surgery, Siegel said.
Defense papers said Bowker’s damages witness, Dr. Stephen L. Fedder, a neurosurgeon from Wynnewood, Pa., opined that Breazeale did not suffer a serious impairment of bodily function from the car accident. The defendant contended that the plaintiff would not surpass the limited tort threshold.
At trial, according to the plaintiff’s firm’s release, Fedder testified that Breazeale only suffered from a sprain and strain of her neck at worst, and that she had recovered from her injuries.
Bowker’s attorney, Daniel M. Brown of William J. Ferren & Associates in Blue Bell, Pa., did not return a call requesting comment.
— Ben Present, of the Law Weekly