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Plaintiff Octavio Serrano appeals from an order for summary judgment dismissing his complaint for personal injury based on a Law Division judge’s finding that his injuries did not satisfy the verbal threshold set forth in the 1998 Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act (AICRA), N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a. On October 22, 1999, plaintiff was taken to the emergency room at Newcomb Medical Center. X-rays of the cervical spine revealed that the lordotic curve, the intervertebral disc spaces and neural foramina were normal. There were no fractures or dislocations and the vertebral bodies were intact. Plaintiff was discharged from the emergency room with a cervical collar and told to use Tylenol. On October 27, 1999, plaintiff saw Marshall Pressman, D.O. In a report dated August 30, 2000, Dr. Pressman and his associate, Dr. Martin Kessler, M.D., indicated that X-rays of the lumbar and thoracic spine were negative. An MRI scan performed on January 5, 2000, revealed a scoliosis of the cervical spine but no disc herniations in either the cervical or lumbosacral areas. In his certification, Kessler stated that in his “opinion, with a reasonable degree of medical probability [plaintiff] has suffered a permanent injury which has not healed to function normally despite treatment and which will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment.” He explained “[t]he specific basis for my conclusion is . . . the history of [plaintiff's] injury to his neck and back in the accident of [October 22, 1999], and persistent complaints and abnormal serial examinations since that time.” On February 6, 2002, plaintiff saw Robert J. Labaczewski, D.O., who diagnosed post-traumatic cervical, thoracic and lumbosacral musculo-ligamentous strain/sprain, temporomandibular joint dysfunction and right carpal tunnel syndrome. However, Labaczewski concluded that plaintiff “is working full duty and is not experiencing any significant limitation in his activities.” Dr. Gary Neil Goldstein, a specialist in plastic and reconstructive surgery of the hand and cosmetic surgery, was retained by defendant, but issued a report to plaintiff’s counsel. Dr. Goldstein’s physical examination of plaintiff revealed: (1) no signs of overt muscle fasciculation, atrophy or tremor; (2) negative finger-to-finger, finger-to-thumb, heel-to-toe, and Romberg testing; (3) low grade Tinel’s over the median nerve at the right wrist; (4) 100 percent normal range of motion in both cervical and lumbar spines; (5) no evidence of spasm; (6) negative findings on compression tests and torso rotation; and (7) nontenderness to palpation of cervical, mid and low-back areas. In addition to listing plaintiff’s complaints, Goldstein noted that plaintiff was now working as a forklift operator and as a dumpster painter. Plaintiff reported that he takes Tylenol perhaps once a week for his symptomatology. Instead of making a finding respecting either severity or permanency of plaintiff’s injuries, the motion judge found that the proofs failed to establish a significant impact on plaintiff’s lifestyle. On appeal, both plaintiff and amicus, Association of Trial Lawyers of America-New Jersey (ATLA-NJ), argue that AICRA does not require proof of the second prong enunciated in Oswin v. Shaw, 129 N.J. 290 (1992), that plaintiff’s injury has had a serious impact on his life. Both also contend that the AICRA threshold is satisfied so long as there is medical proof, based on objective clinical evidence, that a soft-tissue injury is permanent regardless of whether it is significant or serious. Stated another way, they urge that even nonserious soft-tissue injuries qualify so long as there is permanency. Alternatively, plaintiff contends that he met both the objective and subjective criteria of the verbal threshold. Under the prior verbal threshold statute the Supreme Court established a two-prong test to determine whether the verbal threshold is satisfied. Oswin, 129 N.J. at 318-19. The first prong requires the plaintiff to show a serious injury that fits within the statutory definition. The first prong had to be supported “by credible, objective medical evidence,” and may not be based solely on subjective complaints. The second prong, which was described as both objective and subjective, evaluates the causal connection between the injury and its “serious impact” on a plaintiff’s lifestyle. AICRA significantly revised the prior verbal threshold limitation on lawsuit option by replacing categories six through nine with a provision requiring proof of “a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement. An injury shall be considered permanent when the body part or organ, or both, has not healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment.” N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a. In order to satisfy the new tort threshold the statute requires plaintiff to provide a certification that is based on and refers to objective clinical evidence, which may include medical testing from a licensed treating physician or a board-certified licensed physician, stating under penalty of perjury that a person has sustained an injury of the type specified by the statute. Plaintiff and ATLA-NJ argue that any permanent soft-tissue injury, no matter how insignificant, satisfies the verbal threshold so long as there is medical proof to a reasonable medical certainty that “the body part or organ or both have not healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment.” Defendants, on the other hand, assert that even though a plaintiff suffers serious and permanent soft-tissue injury, the AICRA threshold is not penetrated unless there is proof that the injury has a serious impact on lifestyle. There can be circumstances where a person sustains a soft-tissue injury, which, though permanent, is not at all serious. For example, a soft-tissue injury to the neck or back can result in morning stiffness, which then dissipates on movement. Likewise, there can be serious soft-tissue injuries such as herniated discs or a tear of a medial meniscus, which result in pain but do not seriously impact life because the affected person has a sedentary lifestyle and endures pain better than the average person. In its preamble, the Legislature described the type of suits it intended to eliminate by revising the lawsuit threshold, specifically, “suits for injuries which are not serious or permanent, including those for soft tissue injuries.” N.J.S.A. 39:6A-1.1b. Held: In enacting AICRA, “the Legislature clearly intended to require that an injury be both permanent and serious to permit a plaintiff to cross the amended verbal threshold.” James v. Torres, 354 N.J. Super. 586, 596 (App. Div. 2002), certif. denied 175 N.J. 547 (2003). However, it is unnecessary to discuss whether AICRA requires the second prong showing of serious impact on life because the record amply supports a finding that plaintiff’s injuries, if believed, were not the serious type that would vault his case over the verbal threshold simply by reliance on the medical opinions of permanency. The June 9, 2001, certification of Dr. Kessler describes plaintiff’s injuries as permanent, by using the words required by N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a. His July 12, 2001, report concludes that the injuries “constitute a significant and permanent limitation.” However, plaintiff’s injuries consist primarily of soft-tissue sprains and strains. Except for the positive EMG of plaintiff’s right wrist, and intermittent findings of spasm, the medical records are devoid of positive objective tests establishing significant or serious injury. Dr. Kessler is unable to provide a causal relationship between the alleged carpal tunnel syndrome and plaintiff’s accident. Dr. Labaczewski finds plaintiff’s injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome, causally related to the accident, however, he concludes that plaintiff’s injuries do not prevent plaintiff from working full duty nor does he experience any limitation. While Dr. Goldstein found permanent injury, his findings were based on plaintiff’s subjective symptoms for which he takes Tylenol once per week, not any objective findings. Further, Goldstein does not comment on the significance or seriousness of his finding. Finally, even if one could conclude that plaintiff’s overall carpal tunnel injury was serious, there is no analysis comparing plaintiff’s pre-existing wrist condition with his current carpal tunnel syndrome. Simply put, these are not the serious type of soft-tissue injuries intended by the Legislature to qualify for tort exemption. Plaintiff suffers from discomfort at certain times and cannot participate in certain types of sporting activities. However, the type of injury suffered does not rise to the requisite level of seriousness necessary to pierce the AICRA threshold. Surely, evidence of a serious impact on life resulting from a permanent soft-tissue injury can be used to establish that the injury is significant or serious. It is doubtful, however, with the proposition that serious and permanent soft-tissue injury can only exist where there is serious impact on the injured person’s lifestyle. In any event, although the soft-tissue injuries here are arguably permanent, they do not meet the additional AICRA requirement of seriousness. Without proof of both, plaintiff cannot pierce the present verbal threshold. Affirmed. — Digested by Steven P. Bann [The slip opinion is 17 pages long.] For appellant — Daniel E. Rosner (Michael L. Saile Jr. on the brief). For respondents: Jacqueline Serrano — Francis X. Ryan (Green, Lundgren & Ryan; Pina M. Vricella on the brief); Jessica Viruet and Alicia Rodriguez — Erin R. Thompson (Powell, Birchmeier & Powell). For amicus curiae The Association of Trial Lawyers of America-New Jersey — Goldstein, Ballen, O’Rourke & Wildstein (Richard Wildstein on the brief).

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