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DEFENDANT’S Motor Vehicle Negligence – Rear-end collision – Plaintiff driver allegedly suffers aggravation of left shoulder injuries that required surgery after fall from ladder ten years earlier.

Morris County, NJ

Negligence was stipulated in this case. The male plaintiff driver, in his mid-40’s, was rear-ended by a motor vehicle operated by the defendant, after the plaintiff had come to a stop because of heavy traffic on the interstate highway. The defendant’s vehicle was towed from the scene.

The plaintiff’s wife was a passenger in her car. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was driving from the family home in Pennsylvania to Lower Manhattan to drop off his wife at her job. After the accident, although his rear bumper was hanging off – the plaintiff was able to continue driving to Manhattan, and he dropped his wife off at work. The plaintiff did not go to the emergency room.

In ________, about ten years before the motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff was injured at work when he fell off a ladder while performing cable repairs on a utility pole. He had sustained head, left shoulder, bilateral knee, and low back injuries in the prior accident, and was awarded SSD benefits. The plaintiff never returned to work after the ________ ladder accident, and had left shoulder surgery in ________ for rotator cuff and labrum tears sustained in the ________ incident. In the subject January ________ accident, the plaintiff claimed he injured his neck, and re-injured his left shoulder. Five months later, the plaintiff underwent left shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff and labrum tears, and portions of bone were removed to give the shoulder more room and flexibility. Since the rotator cuff was completely torn, the surgeon used two anchors (drilled into the bone) to secure the rotator cuff to the bone. Several months later, the plaintiff underwent an anterior cervical fusion surgery at C6-7 with hardware and screws.

At trial, the plaintiff’s spinal surgeon, who performed the cervical fusion, testified that the neck injuries and fusion surgery were related to the ________ motor vehicle accident, and were permanent. The surgeon indicated that the plaintiff never had a prior cervical MRI, and he had no neck treatment or symptoms for at least five years before the motor vehicle accident. He also testified that no physician had ever recommended cervical fusion to plaintiff before the motor vehicle accident. The surgeon testified that plaintiff would be a candidate for future neck fusion surgery, because the discs above and below the C6-7 fusion site are susceptible to herniations and degeneration.

The plaintiff’s shoulder surgeon testified that the left shoulder injuries and surgery were related to the ________ motor vehicle accident and were permanent. The surgeon testified that the rotator cuff tear was much larger (________% torn) in ________, than it was at the time of the prior surgery in ________. He also testified that the current labrum tear was in a different location than the one seen in ________.

The defense counsel argued that plaintiff did not sustain any injury at all in the motor vehicle accident, and argued that the 14-day delay in getting medical treatment proved that the plaintiff was not injured. The defendant called a neuroradiology expert, who testified that the cervical MRIs taken two months after the accident did not show any conditions that were related to trauma. The defense expert testified that all of the findings on the cervical MRI were degenerative, arthritic, and pre-dated the motor vehicle accident. However, the neuroradiologist did not give any testimony about the left shoulder. Although the defendant had two different orthopedic surgery experts, neither orthopedic expert was called at trial.

The plaintiff made no claims for medical bills or loss wages.The Verdict Sheet had three questions. The jury was initially asked if the plaintiff sustained any injury at all in the motor vehicle accident. Secondly, the jury was asked to determine if the injuries sustained were permanent. The last question was the monetary amount of the damages. The jury answered “No” to Question #1, finding that plaintiff did not sustain any injury at all in the motor vehicle accident, and did not reach the permanency or damages questions.

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