Date of Verdict: September 11.
Court and Case No.: C.P. Luzerne No. 7819-CV-2009.
Judge: Michael T. Vough.
Type of Action: Personal injury.
Injuries: Left elbow contusion, cervical sprain, lumbar sprain.
Plaintiffs Counsel: John M. Solt, Slusser Law Firm, Hazleton, Pa.
Plaintiffs Expert: Dr. Joseph Diana, chiropractor, Hazleton.
Defense Counsel: Daniel E. Cummins, Foley, Comerford & Cummins, Scranton.
Defense Expert: Dr. Thomas A. Allardyce, orthopedic surgeon, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Comment: Plaintiff James Yuelling alleged in his pretrial memorandum that he was driving in Hazleton, Pa., when defendant John Cessaro “darted out of an alley at a high rate of speed and ‘T-boned’” Yuelling’s vehicle on the right side.
Yuelling alleged in his memorandum that he suffered injuries to his neck, back, shoulder and eye, but did not specify the nature of those injuries.
Cessaro said in his own memorandum that he didn’t see Yuelling’s vehicle when he pulled out of the alley.
Cessaro further argued in his memorandum that Yuelling’s alleged injuries — which included neck and back pain, arm and hand tremors, numbness and tingling, right rib pain, periodic headaches and glass in his eye — were not serious enough to allow for non-economic damages.
Therefore, according to information provided by Cessaro’s attorney, Daniel E. Cummins, the defense argued at trial that Yuelling was only covered under the limited tort option.
Both parties agreed that, at the time of the incident, Yuelling was a limited tort insured.
The defense admitted liability, according to Cummins, so the central issue at trial was whether Yuelling’s injuries were severe enough to entitle him to damages beyond those allowed by the limited tort option.
Cummins said the plaintiff relied primarily on an expert report by Yuelling’s chiropractor, Dr. Joseph Diana, who opined that Yuelling’s neck and lower back injuries were the result of the accident.
According to Cummins, both parties informed the jury at trial that Yuelling had previously injured his back at work and had also sustained neck, bilateral shoulder and upper back injuries in a slip-and-fall.
According to Cummins, the defense submitted an expert report by an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Thomas Allardyce, who concluded after examining Yuelling that the plaintiff had suffered a left elbow contusion, a cervical sprain and a lumbar sprain.
The defense also relied on an ambulance crew report that characterized examinations of Yuelling’s neck, back and extremities at the accident scene as “unremarkable” and his condition as “minor,” according to Cummins.
After about three hours of deliberation, according to Cummins, the 12-member jury unanimously returned its verdict, finding that Yuelling had not sustained serious enough injuries to overcome the limited tort threshold and therefore could not collect any non-economic damages.
The jury did, however, award Yuelling $3,781 in medical expenses.
Prior to trial, according to Cummins, the defense had offered to pay Yuelling his stated economic damages that, at the time, were about $3,885, but the defense had demanded $6,300.
Yuelling’s attorney, John M. Solt, could not be reached for comment at press time.
— Zack Needles, of the Law Weekly