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Allegheny County

The plaintiff was a passenger in a pick-up truck driven by a co-worker when the vehicle was struck from behind by a van owned by the defendant auto paint company and driven by the defendant driver. The defendants stipulated to negligence in causing the accident, but disputed the injuries which the plaintiff claimed to have sustained as a result of the collision.

The plaintiff was a man in his late 40s to early 50s who was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Evidence showed that the plaintiff’s head broke through the back window of the host pick-up truck after the impact.

The plaintiff’s neurosurgeon testified that the plaintiff sustained a herniated cervical disc as a result of the accident. The disc herniation was diagnosed within nine months post- accident. The plaintiff underwent a cervical fusion approximately a year after the collision.

The plaintiff claimed that he continues to suffer neck symptoms and loss of strength in his hands and arms, along with loss of balance, associated with the cervical disc herniation and surgery. The plaintiff testified that he did not have neck symptoms or loss of hand and arm strength before the date of the accident. The plaintiff appeared at trial in a motorized wheelchair.

The plaintiff’s vocational expert opined that the plaintiff can work only in a sedentary capacity and is unable to return to his former employment as an insurance company restoration employee, a position which requires on-site estimates. The plaintiff’s vocational expert testified that the plaintiff would require retraining for another career at a cost of some $________. The plaintiff has not returned to work since the date of the accident and his physiatrist testified that the plaintiff has been left with permanent physical limitations. The plaintiff sought damages for loss of future earning capacity. His wife asserted a claim for loss of consortium.

The defendant’s neurologist opined that the plaintiff’s cervical fusion was necessitated by preexisting degenerative conditions of his cervical spine, and not as a result of the accident. The defendant’s expert testified that the plaintiff sustained only minor neck sprains and strains stemming from the accident.

The defense stressed that the plaintiff was a long-term diabetic who had been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy before the date of the accident. The defendant’s medical expert testified that peripheral neuropathy causes a degeneration of the nerves of the hands and feet resulting in symptoms in the outer extremities. The defendants argued that the plaintiff’s complaints regarding his hands and arms were related to his preexisting peripheral neuropathy and that he would have required a wheelchair regardless of the subject accident.

The jury awarded the plaintiff $________ in damages. Delay damages of $________ were added to the damage award for a total judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $________.

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