Irfan M. Kahn v. Richard G. Anderson: A man who injured his shoulder in a head-on car crash in Bridgeport has recovered more than $68,000 following a bench trial.

Irfan M. Kahn, 35, of Norwalk was driving eastbound on Commerce Drive near its intersection with Dewey Street in Bridgeport at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7, 2010. As Kahn was making a left turn with a green arrow, he collided with a vehicle driven by Richard G. Anderson, who was headed westbound on Commerce Drive through the intersection and against the light. The two vehicles collided head-on, causing heavy front-end damage to the cars. Kahn’s car was pushed backwards from the impact by 10- to 15-feet.

Kahn declined medical attention at the scene by an ambulance but later took himself to the hospital, said his lawyer, Johnpatrick O’Brien, of Zeisler & Zeisler in Bridgeport.

At Norwalk Hospital, Kahn complained of neck and shoulder pain and was diagnosed with a cervical strain.

The following month, Kahn visited Dr. Eric Katz, an orthopedic surgeon, for continued neck pain that radiated into his shoulder, as well as some low back pain. Katz prescribed Kahn physical therapy at Slovin Family Chiropractic Center in Norwalk.

In March 2010, Kahn still complained of pain, especially in the neck and shoulder, and was sent for an MRI. The test revealed a labral tear in the right shoulder. Katz opined that the shoulder needed arthroscopic surgery.

In a medical report for this lawsuit, the doctor said that Kahn sustained a 5 percent permanent impairment to his neck, a 5 percent impairment to the low back, and a 10 to 15 percent impairment to the right shoulder.

O’Brien said the defense presented a doctor who offered the opinion that Kahn’s shoulder injury was not caused by the crash but rather by a degenerative condition. The doctor, Matthew Skolnick, also opined that Kahn was not a candidate for surgery, but would be better off receiving cortisone injections in his shoulder.

"Their interpretations of the MRI were completely different," O’Brien said of the two doctors’ opinions.

The two sides began picking a jury, but stopped after a few jurors were chosen and agreed to a bench trial instead before Judge Dale W. Radcliffe in the Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport. Attorney Patrice Noah, who could not be reached for comment, represented the defendant.

A bench trial is "quicker, it’s more efficient, and the other thing is… you always worry about personal opinions coming through and dictating [a jury's] verdict even when it conflicts with the evidence in a case," said O’Brien.

At trial, Anderson admitted he wasn’t paying attention to the road before the crash occurred. Kahn testified that he had no prior neck, back or shoulder pain prior to the crash. He further testified that the pain makes it difficult to play with his children, that he no longer participates in a basketball league and has difficulty driving.

Dr. Katz testified at trial on behalf of Kahn. A videotape of a deposition with Dr. Skolnick was played.

"There was a lot of medical evidence for [Judge Radcliffe] to go through and two doctors on complete opposite ends of the spectrum," said O’Brien.

O’Brien said that during a cross-examination, he asked the defense expert, Dr. Skolnick, what percentage of his annual income comes from giving independent medical evaluations for lawsuits, as he had in this case. Dr. Skolnick revealed that half his income came from the such exams, while Dr. Katz predominantly earned his income treating patients. This, O’Brien speculates, may have been a factor in Judge Radcliffe’s decision.

"Dr. Katz came across as a more neutral and Dr. Skolnick more slanted to the defense," said O’Brien.

Prior to trial, O’Brien sought $75,000 in damages for his client. The defense offered $30,000.

In a written opinion last month, Judge Radcliffe ruled the defendant was negligent in causing the crash and awarded Kahn $68,228, nearly $44,000 of which was for non-economic damages.

Though Kahn has not yet had shoulder surgery, he expects he will eventually have to do so, said O’Brien. Part of the damages award put $10,000 towards the surgery. O’Brien said the defense did not appeal the judge’s ruling and damages award.