verdicts and settlements
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Date of Verdict:

April 27.

Court and Case No.:

C.P. Philadelphia No. 160300295.

Judge:

Rosalyn K. Robinson.

Type of Action:

Motor vehicle, insurance.

Injuries:

Neck-herniated disc.

Plaintiffs Counsel:

Matthew S. Breslin, Rodden and Rodden, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

Michael Benjamin Gerstein, Bennett, Bricklin & Saltzburg, Philadelphia.

Plaintiffs Expert:

Randall Smith, orthopedic surgery, Bala Cynwyd.

Defense Expert:

Lucas Margolies, neurology, Broomall.

Comment:

On Oct. 23, 2014, plaintiff Samantha Finore, 29, an accounts-payable clerk, was stopped at a red light on Street Road, in Northeast Philadelphia, when her sedan was rear-ended by a sport utility vehicle. She claimed neck injuries.

Finore sued the driver, James Leemon Jr., alleging that he was negligent. She also sued her insurer, State Farm Insurance Co., with an under-insured motorist claim (she had a policy limit of $100,000).

Finore settled with Leemon for an undisclosed amount, and the case was tried on issues of causation and damages on Finore’s claims against State Farm.

That evening, Finore, complaining of neck pain, presented to an emergency room, where she was examined and released.

Three to four days later, Finore, with ongoing complaints, presented to her primary care physician, who prescribed physical therapy, which she treated with for nine months (treatment included massage). She underwent an MRI and an EMG, and was diagnosed with a herniation of cervical intervertebral disc C5-6 and with right-sided radiculopathy stemming from vertebra C6 (she experienced symptoms in her right (dominant) arm).

Following physical therapy, Finore continued to consult with her orthopedic surgeon. In July 2015, Finore, with ongoing neck pain, presented to a pain-management specialist, who administered an epidural injection of a steroid-based painkiller, and she had a second injection in October. No further treatment was rendered.

Finore’s expert in orthopedic surgery causally related her injuries and treatment to the accident. The physician recommended additional treatment, including further testing and anti-pain injections, which he estimated at $10,000 per year. The physician opined that Finore was not a surgical candidate.

Finore testified about how her ongoing neck complaints affected her ability to care for her children, ages 4 and 8 months old. Pushing a double-stroller, taking a baby car seat in and out, and bathing and feeding her children proved difficult, she said. She also discussed the difficulties of performing household chores and engaging in social activities. According to Finore, as a mother, she has learned to live with it. She sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

State Farm’s counsel noted that, in April 2013, Finore had been in a rear-end collision and suffered a bulging disc at C5-6. The insurer’s expert in neurology, who examined Finore, noted that her 2014 films indicated degenerative findings and no traumatic findings as a result of the accident. Moreover, during her physical exam, Finore failed to present any objective findings in relation to the findings on her diagnostic studies.

Finore was awarded $220,000.

Pursuant to Finore’s confidential settlement with Leemon, State Farm received a $100,000 credit, which reduced the verdict to $120,000. The court then molded the amount to $100,000, in accordance with State Farm’s $100,000 underinsured-motorist policy limit.

State Farm intends to file post-trial motions regarding an alleged inconsistency in the jury’s award of $20,000 for pain and suffering yet $200,000 for future medical expenses. The denial of State Farm’s motion in limine regarding introduction of future medical expenses to the jury may have resulted in this outcome, the defense maintained.

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