This is a review of a back injury lawsuit. In this case, the Plaintiff had been in an automobile accident and claimed that only after he left the scene did he begin to feel effects from the accident. The Plaintiff later claimed to have serious injuries to his spine as a result of the collision, and he eventually filed suit seeking damages from the driver of the other vehicle.
The Defendant responded to the back injury lawsuit with a Motion of Summary Judgment. In the Motion, the Defendant questioned the extent of the Plaintiff’s injuries.
Statement of Facts…
On May 5th, 2010, Carl Barr was driving southbound on a well-traveled two lane highway. Ted Celon was heading northbound when he stopped to make a left turn. As Celon was making his turn, Barr collided with the right rear quarter panel of Celon’s car.
At the scene Celon offered to call for medical assistance. Barr declined his offer. Both vehicles were drivable. After exchanging insurance information, Barr and Celon both left the scene and went on their way.
Later that evening Barr, feeling some pain and stiffness in his back and left knee, decided to go to a local hospital. There he was treated and released after undergoing an MRI examination and a CAT scan.
His discharge diagnosis was “cervical and thoracic spine strain and knee contusion” (cuts and scrapes). That was all. He was prescribed some Flexeril – a muscle relaxer and told to take Advil or Tylenol.
Barr persisted in his claim of serious back and knee injuries. He went to a local medical clinic he found in the yellow pages. There they referred him to a personal injury attorney who in turn referred him to a chiropractor.
Shortly thereafter Barr filed a back injury lawsuit against Celon. In his lawsuit Barr claimed he sustained serious and severe personal injuries and nervous shock as a direct result of the collision.
He further claimed he was unable to perform the duties of his job as a bus driver for his local school district. As a result he wasn’t getting paid. He also claimed as a result of the collision he was unable to enjoy the closeness and intimacy he previously shared with his wife.
Barr’s back injury lawsuit went on to allege that as a direct result of Celon’s negligence he sustained the following serious injuries:
- Focal bulge at C5-6 creating impingement
- Cervical radiculitis
- Lumbar derangement
- Left knee derangement disk herniation at the C4 and C5
- Headaches, tenderness and limitation
- Limitation of motion of the cervical spine and tenderness and limitation of motion of the lumbar sacral spine
Barr’s Petition went on to state the injuries he sustained were of such a serious nature as to render him incapable of walking, sitting and standing without severe pain. He added,
“…since the collision I haven’t been able to sleep through the night because of the severe headaches I get right before retiring each evening.”
He again alleged he had suffered from a lack of consortium (inability to be intimate with his spouse). He further added…
“As a direct result of not being able to drive the school bus any longer, the school district fired me.”
Pursuant to the State’s Rules of Evidence, Defendant Celon petitioned the Court to have Barr examined by doctors of his choice.
The judge granted Celon’s request and ordered Barr to be examined by doctors he had chosen with the help of the attorney provided to him by his car insurance company. After Barr’s medical evaluation by Celon’s doctors, Barr was diagnosed as suffering from the following maladies only:
- Knee sprain and contusions (cuts and scrapes)
- Lower back sprain
- Stiffness of the neck
With the new medical diagnosis in hand, Celon filed a Motion for Summary Judgment to dismiss Barr’s back injury lawsuit against him. The Motion alleged Barr had failed to produce sufficient medical evidence to support his allegations of serious injuries.
If the Court found in favor of Celon’s Motion, then it would dismiss the case without a trial.
In the hearing on Celon’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Barr testified he truly suffered from the specific injuries he alleged in his back injury lawsuit.
On cross-examination, Celon’s attorneys asked Barr if he had previously been injured in an auto collision. Barr said he had about two years ago. Celon’s attorneys asked him if he was sure that was the only previous collision in which he was injured. Barr said he didn’t remember.
Celon’s attorneys then handed Barr copies of two cancelled checks. One dated 13 months before this collision, and another, 18 months. Although Barr’s attorney should have objected, he didn’t.
When asked to explain, Barr testified each check was from an insurance company and was paid to him for injuries he sustained previously in two separate car accidents. The first check was for $2,800 and the second for $11,500.
When asked what injuries he sustained in those accidents, Barr admitted the first was for back and neck injuries, and the second for knee and leg injuries.
When asked why he had alleged very similar injuries in all three lawsuits he said it was only a coincidence; that the first two injuries were entirely separate and had already healed. He said he was telling the truth about his present injuries.
Barr’s attorneys then called Barr’s wife Emma to testify. Emma testified she had witnessed her husband’s pain and discomfort that night when he came home after the accident. She went on to say she saw her husband’s pain and discomfort quickly worsen after the collision. Emma also testified her husband had trouble sleeping, and that he suffered from frequent headaches.
Further, she testified before the collision she and her husband shared a close and intimate relationship, but that after the collision, and because of the pain and discomfort her husband was experiencing, they now suffered from such lack of intimacy, or “loss of consortium”.
Celon’s attorneys were well-prepared, and on cross-examination asked Ms. Barr if she had ever been convicted of crimes of moral turpitude. (Crimes of Moral Turpitude include, but are not limited to theft, sexual assault and possession or sale of drugs). When Ms. Barr said she couldn’t remember, Celon’s attorneys produced two Judgments of Conviction against her from a Criminal District Court in Dallas. One conviction was for the crime of Forgery, and the other for Theft.
Barr presented no further evidence and his attorneys rested. Having already entered into evidence the doctors’ reports and diagnoses of Barr’s minimal injuries, Celon’s attorneys rested as well.
The Court took the matter under advisement. Several weeks later the Court’s decision was published.
In her opinion the Judge concluded Barr had wholly failed to raise any credible or material issues of fact or law which would support his assertion that he suffered from the specific injuries he alleged in his original back injury lawsuit.
The Judge went on to state she was legally bound not to consider the “interesting” backgrounds of Barr and his wife Emma, but because Barr’s attorney failed to timely object it was now difficult for her to ignore what she heard, saying such evidence certainly did not help Barr’s position.
Absent further evidence the Judge granted Celon’s Motion for Summary Judgment. In her conclusion the Judge dismissed Barr’s back injury lawsuit with prejudice.
- When considering filing a lawsuit alleging personal injuries it is essential the injuries alleged be supportable and sustainable by credible medical evidence.
In the face of a skilled personal injury attorney mere unsubstantiated allegations or conclusions of injuries will more often than not result in a dismissal of the Plaintiff’s case in a Motion for Summary Judgment.
- In a personal injury lawsuit the Rules of Evidence, in all U.S. states and in Federal Court, afford the Judge the discretion to grant both parties equal access to the evidence they intend to offer during the trial.
These matters are referred to as “Discovery” – a tool in which the issues and evidence to be tried in Court are identified. Doing this saves the Courts the inordinate amount of time and expense otherwise necessary to identify those same issues during a trial.
A Motion for Summary Judgment is an excellent example of the advantages of Discovery.
*This case example is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
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