Vanderlee v. Daniels

Defense Verdict

Date of Verdict: Nov. 6, 2018.

Court and Case No.: C.P. Westmoreland No. 3788 of 2016.

Judge: Harry F. Smail Jr.

Type of Action: Motor vehicle.

Injuries: Back, knee and neck injuries.

Plaintiffs Counsel: Eugene J. Julian, Julian Law Firm, Washington.

Plaintiffs Expert: Ari E. Pressman, orthopedic surgery, Pittsburgh.

Defense Counsel: Timothy J. Scelsi, Reeves & Ross, Latrobe.


On Nov. 13, 2015, plaintiff Jerry Vanderlee Jr., a laborer in his mid-30s, was driving on the eastbound side of Route 51, near its intersection at McKenery Drive, in Rostraver. His vehicle’s rear end was struck by a trailing pickup truck that was being driven by Lawrence Daniels Jr. Vanderlee claimed that he suffered injuries of his back, a knee and his neck.

Vanderlee sued Daniels. Vanderlee alleged that Daniels was negligent in the operation of his vehicle.

Vanderlee testified that after looking in both directions and seeing vehicles a fair distance to his right, he proceeded across two southbound lanes and a turning lane and then turned left into the northbound lane of Route 51. He was then rear-ended by Daniels, who was driving in the same direction.

Vanderlee’s counsel argued that Daniels should have seen Vanderlee’s car and that his car had traveled a sufficient distance along Route 51 before attempting the turn for Daniels to avoid him before striking him.

Vanderlee’s counsel also cited the deposition of an eyewitness, another motorist, who had been driving on Route 51 and intended to turn left onto McKenery Drive. The witness claimed that Daniels had passed him in the right lane and had time to avoid Vanderlee’s vehicle. The witness also claimed that Daniels was traveling too fast under the circumstances.

Vanderlee’s counsel further argued that Daniels’ failure to maintain an assured clear distance ahead while driving caused the collision.

According to Daniels, as he approached the intersection, Vanderlee pulled out directly in front of him when it was not safe to do so and when Daniels had the right of way.

Vanderlee was taken by ambulance to an emergency room where he was examined and released.

Vanderlee alleged that, in the ensuing weeks, he treated with over-the-counter pain medication for pain to his neck, low back and right knee, which he alleged had struck on the dashboard during impact.

On Feb. 6, 2016, Vanderlee presented to his primary care physician with complaints of pain to his neck, low back and right knee. He was sent for MRIs and was diagnosed with bulging at lumbar intervertebral discs L2-3 and L3-4, disc desiccation in the lumbar spine, and a tear of the right lateral meniscus. He was further diagnosed with a cervical strain and sprain.

From March to October, Vanderlee treated with physical therapy. The treatment consisted of massages and exercises.

In November, Vanderlee presented to an orthopedic surgeon, who diagnosed him with radiculopathy stemming from L3-4, after having experienced radicular pain in his legs. He treated with a series of epidural injections, which continued through 2017.

In February 2017, Vanderlee underwent an arthroscopy of the lateral meniscus tear.

Later in 2017, Vanderlee developed pain in his left leg, allegedly due to having favored it and placing more weight and pressure on it as a result of the right-knee injury. He underwent an MRI and was diagnosed with a tear of the left medial meniscus. At the time of trial, Vanderlee continued to consult with his surgeon about his left leg and was considering surgical intervention.

Vanderlee testified that he continues to suffer pain in his lower back and knees. He allegedly has difficulty walking and standing for long periods, climbing and bending. Vanderlee stated that his ongoing pain affects his ability to perform his duties as a laborer.

Vanderlee sought to recover approximately $5,000 in unpaid medical costs. He also sought to recover lost wages, having missed time off from work throughout his treatment, as well as damages for past and future pain and suffering.

The defense questioned whether Vanderlee suffered any injuries from the accident, since he waited nearly three months before seeking formal treatment.

The jury rendered a defense verdict. It found that Daniels was not liable for the accident.

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs and defense counsel.

—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication