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John and Jan Kramer v. Steven Robillard and Vassalo Landscape Management, Inc.

Case Name

John and Jan Kramer v. Steven Robillard and Vassalo Landscape Management, Inc.

Type of Injury

AGGRAVATION OF SPINA BIFIDA REQUIRING FUSION SURGERY, AGGRAVATION OF KNEE INJURY

Occupation

construction worker

Location

NY

Verdict

$3,392,266 for John K. Breakdown: $500,000 for past pain and suffering; $1,000,000 for future pain and suffering; $42,000 for past medical expenses; $13,000 for future medical expenses?

Verdict Amount

$3,392,266.00

Case Details

XII/21-1 MOTOR VEHICLE QUESTION OF LIGHTS AGGRAVATION OF SPINA BIFIDA REQUIRING FUSION SURGERY, AGGRAVATION OF KNEE INJURY

John and Jan Kramer v. Steven Robillard and Vassalo Landscape Management, Inc. 258/93 2?-week trial Verdict 9/20/94 Judge Joseph G. Owen, Orange Supreme

VERDICT: $3,392,266 for John K. Breakdown: $500,000 for past pain and suffering; $1,000,000 for future pain and suffering; $42,000 for past medical expenses; $13,000 for future medical expenses; $120,000 for past lost earnings; $1,717,266 for future lost earnings.

$200,000 for Jan K. for loss of services. Post-trial motions were denied. This action subsequently settled for an undisclosed amount within the policy limit pursuant to a high/low agreement.

Pltf. Atty: John J. Basso of Basso & Burke, Poughkeepsie

Deft. Atty: Hugh A. Scott, New Windsor

Facts: The accident occurred on 3/23/92 at the intersection of Rtes. 300 and 32 in the Town of Newburgh. Pltf., a 40-year-old construction worker who was out on disability at the time, testified that he was driving through the intersection with a green light when his vehicle was broadsided by Deft.’s fully loaded dump truck weighing 36,000 lbs. Deft. Robillard, the truck driver, claimed that he had the green light and that he blew his horn before entering the intersection. He also claimed that he was driving only 10 mph at the time. Eyewitnesses testified that they did not hear any horns at the scene. Pltf.’s accident reconstruction expert testified that Pltf.’s vehicle was propelled 40 feet into the front end of another car. He testified that his impact analysis determined that 40,000-60,000 pounds of force was exchanged, which indicated that Deft.’s vehicle was moving at approximately 30 mph at impact. The jury found Deft. 100% liable.

Injuries: aggravation of spina bifida occulta requiring spinal fusion; aggravation of pre-existing injury to the right knee requiring arthroscopic surgery. There were no firm objective findings on myelogram, CAT scan, or MRI. Pltf. was involved in two prior work-related accidents in which he injured his right knee in May and December 1991. The accident at bar occurred 2 weeks before he was to return to work. Deft. contended that Pltf. suffered from degenerative disc disease and that he had suffered a back injury in one of the two prior accidents. Pltf. produced emergency room records which indicated that the back injury arose only after the instant accident. Deft. also contended that there were errors in the Workers’ Compensation applications and various medical records indicating a prior back injury. Pltf. called the Workers’ Compensation attorney and all of the physicians in whose reports the errors were made who testified that these were data entry errors. Pltf. also called the responding police officer who testified that Pltf. made complaints of back pain at the scene. Pltf.’s vocational expert testified that Pltf. was unemployable. Pltf. called his minister who testified that before the accident, in his spare time, Pltf. performed heavy construction work at the church. After the accident, he was limited to counseling troubled youths and assisting in marriage counseling. Pltf. attempted to return to school for a degree in social work, but was unable to continue because of various surgeries and problems with sitting or standing for extended periods. Demonstrative evidence: full-scale three-dimensional model of the human spine with muscles and nerves; photo enlargements of Pltf.’s and Deft.’s vehicles; X-rays showing spinal fixation; various braces and devices Pltf. used; enlargement of hospital records; reconstructive diagram of intersection. Pltf. Experts: William Burrill, accident reconstruction, Inter-Tech, Albany; Dr. Michael Kamalian, orth. surg., Middletown (by videotape); Dr. John Mazella, orth. surg., Mt. Kisco ( performed arthroscopic surgery records stipulated into evidence); Dr. Jesse Manlapaz, surgeon, New Milford, Connecticut (performed spinal fusion ); Andrew Weintraub, Ph.D., economist, Temple University; Dr. Edmond Provder, vocational rehabilitation, Manhattan. Deft. Experts: Dr. Mary Godesky, orth. surg., Kingston; Dr. Hugh Wisoff, neurosurgeon, Bronx; Dr. Leona Liberty, vocational rehabilitation, Albany.