Johnson v. Keogh

Defense Verdict

Date of Verdict: July 26.

Court and Case No.: C.P. Montgomery No. 2016-23461

Judge: Thomas P. Rogers.

Type of Action: Motor vehicle.

Injuries: Elbow, back and wrist injuries.

Plaintiffs Counsel: Dominic A. Speziali, J. Fine Law, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel: Jessica Smeriglio, Goldberg, Miller & Rubin, Philadelphia.

Defense Expert: Dr. Leonard A. Brody, orthopedic surgery, Southampton.


On Sept. 29, 2014, plaintiff Nicole Johnson, 42, a program manager, was driving on Easton Road, in Willow Grove, when her sedan was sideswiped on the driver’s side by a pickup truck. She claimed multiple permanent injuries.

Johnson sued the other driver, Daniel Keogh, alleging that he was negligent.

Keogh stipulated to negligence, and the case was tried on the issues of causation and damages.

The day after the accident, Johnson, complaining of pain to her right elbow, presented to an emergency room, where an X-ray was negative. A week later, she presented to a chiropractor with complaints of continued pain to her elbow and also to her right shoulder and wrist. She further said she had pain to her neck and low back. From Oct. 6 to Nov. 20, she treated with massage and spinal manipulation.

After an MRI of her right arm, Johnson was diagnosed with sprains and strains of her right wrist, shoulder and elbow, with mild tendinosis and degenerative changes in her right elbow. She was also diagnosed with sprains and strains of her cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. During treatment, she presented to a pain-management specialist and received a trigger-point injection to her right trapezius muscle.

A few months post-accident, Johnson was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis to her left heel. In early 2015, she was fitted with an elbow strap, which she wore for a few months. In August 2015, she returned to her chiropractor with ongoing complaints, and she treated with two visits.

Her next course of treatment was not until January 2017, when she received an epidural injection of a steroid-based painkiller to her lumbar spine. In March, she resumed chiropractic care with a different physician, through June. At that time, she complained of ongoing pain in her right elbow, wrist, shoulder, heel and to her spine, in addition to numbness and tingling in her legs.

An MRI of Johnson’s lumbar spine showed degenerative changes and disc protrusions. She was diagnosed with an aggravation of a pre-existing condition. In April 2017, Johnson treated with four sessions of physical therapy. In December 2017, she received an epidural injection to her lumbar spine, and in February 2018, a cortisone injection was administered to her left heel. No further treatment was rendered.

Johnson’s counsel cited her medical records to argue that she suffered a serious impairment of a bodily function. The parties agreed to try the case pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1311.1. Under the rule, a verdict is capped at $25,000, and expert-witness reports are submitted into evidence instead of live testimony by the expert witnesses.

Johnson said that she continued to experience pain and a decreased range of motion at her right elbow, wrist, shoulder, neck, and upper and lower back. She stated that, prior to the accident, she had regarded herself as a “G.I. Jane,” since she was military veteran and led a physically active lifestyle that included running long distances. Due to her injuries, however, she was no longer physically active, she testified. She sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

Counsel for Keogh denied Johnson’s claimed injuries, pointing out her gaps in treatment. Additionally, Johnson had been in a fall in March 2016, and her resumed treatment in 2017 was mostly likely due to the fall, counsel asserted.

The defense’s expert in orthopedic surgery, who examined Johnson, concluded in a report that she had not suffered injury from the accident, and any injury she might have sustained would have been soft-tissue in nature and resolved within weeks.

The jury rendered a defense verdict, finding that Keogh’s negligence caused Johnson’s injury, but that Johnson did not suffer a serious impairment of a bodily function.


This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel. Plaintiffs counsel did not respond to calls for comment.

—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication