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Mercer County

In this action, the male plaintiff, age 29 at the time of the accident and 39 at the time of the settlement, contended that as a result of the negligence of the defendant driver, who struck him in the rear while he was stopped in traffic, he suffered a concussion, a postconcussion syndrome, a "mild" traumatic brain injury producing abnormalities as noted on a SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) brain scan, and a psychiatric overlay requiring hospitalization and manifesting in amnesia and emotional lability which has left the former forklift operator permanently unemployable. The plaintiff also contended that the personality change occasioned suicidal ideation and an incident in which he threatened his wife with violence, resulting in his leaving the home. The couple ultimately divorced. The evidence disclosed that the collision was low impact in nature, that the car suffered minimal property damage and the defendant denied that the plaintiff’s claims of suffering such injuries from this low-impact collision, should be accepted.

The plaintiff contended that as he was stopped in traffic, the defendant driver suddenly struck his vehicle from behind. The plaintiff was brought to the emergency room and complained of headaches and neck pain. He was released with a sheet warning about the possible symptoms of concussion. The plaintiff maintained that he vomited shortly after he left the emergency room. The plaintiff visited his family physician a few days later and the family physician diagnosed a concussion.

The plaintiff maintained that over the ensuing several weeks, he developed significant memory deficits and became progressively irritable, culminating in an incident approximately four months after the accident in which he threatened his wife with violence and expressed an intent to commit suicide. The plaintiff was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for approximately one month following this incident.

The plaintiff maintained that on one occasion, he displayed signs of a seizure. The seizure could not be confirmed and the plaintiff contended that it was likely that he had suffered a "pseudo-seizure" which was psychiatric in origin. The plaintiff spent several months in a brain injury rehabilitation facility after the seizure. The plaintiff maintained that during this period, a SPECT Scan showed areas of abnormalities involving a reduction of blood flow in the area of the temporal lobe.

The plaintiff’s neuropsychologist maintained that the results largely correlated with neuropsychological testing showing cognitive deficits associated with the temporal and frontal lobe trauma.

The plaintiff would have also produced 4-5 lay witnesses who had known the plaintiff well since he was approximately 16 years of age. The witnesses related that when they visited the plaintiff shortly after he left the brain injury rehabilitation facility, they observed an extremely stark change in the plaintiff and that he did not appear to recognize them. The plaintiff also contended that he could not recall major events in his life including his wedding and the births of his two children.

The plaintiff’s psychiatrist would have contended that based upon the onset of symptoms at the time of the head trauma, his clinical course and the testing, the plaintiff had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury with a psychiatric overlay. The psychiatrist contended the plaintiff had a very troubled childhood which left him a fragile vessel. The expert maintained that although the physical head trauma would not readily explain the severe symptoms such as global amnesia, the superimposition of a brain injury on the underlying emotional fragility accounted for the rapid deterioration of the plaintiff’s condition after the accident. The expert contended that the plaintiff’s disability and a flat affect which is readily observable are permanent in nature. The plaintiff also contended that he is unemployable.

The defendant denied that the accident could have caused the plaintiff’s complaints and the defendant’s neuropsychologist denied that the battery of testing performed supported the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff would have countered that the manner in which the defendant’s expert administered testing was seriously flawed and that his interpretation of the results should, therefore, be rejected. The plaintiff maintained that during one portion of the testing, proper procedures require that the patient be stopped at the point of an error and then continue from that point on. The plaintiff maintained that the defense expert did not follow this procedure, and also contended that in other portions of the test, this expert failed to follow requirements relating to when the patient should write down calculations. The plaintiff would have further pointed to the deposition testimony of a well known neuropsychologist who developed a number of these tests. The plaintiff would have stressed that in portions of his deposition, he agreed that the plaintiff was not malingering, and that in other portions, he ultimately agreed that the testing procedures of both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s experts were flawed to some degree.

The defendant would have also presented an accident reconstruction expert to contend that the G-forces involved in such a low impact collision would not cause the claimed injuries. The plaintiff countered that the studies relied upon by the defendant involved very controlled situations in which subjects were facing forward only with their heads against the head rests. The plaintiff argued that such testing could well fail to correlate with the actual forces exerted on an individual in an uncontrolled collision. The plaintiff also contended that the subjects in the studies did not suffer from preexisting emotional difficulties such as the plaintiff.

The plaintiff is currently collecting social security disability benefits, and after staying with his sister and brother-in-law for a period, he moved to a small house where he lives alone. The plaintiff would have introduced photographs comparing the comfortable appearing family home he lived in prior to the subject accident with his current home, and the plaintiff would have argued that the jury could well determine the manner in which the plaintiff’s life has so dramatically changed.

The case settled prior to trial for $________.

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