This is a review of an Appeal of a Motion for Summary Judgment originally filed by the Defendant in a back injury settlement case. The Defendant had asked the Court to dismiss a lawsuit against him for injuries suffered by the Plaintiff during a vehicle collision. The Defendant had maintained there was little evidence that the Plaintiff’s injuries were serious. The Court disagreed and allowed the suit to proceed.
The Defendant, in turn, appealed, stating that the lower court had erred in weighing the evidence.
Statement of Facts…
In the original lawsuit Antony Beatter sought damages he alleged to have sustained when Burt James collided with his car.
In his back injury settlement case Beatter asked the Court to award him damages for personal injuries he sustained as a result of James’ negligence. After Beatter filed his lawsuit, James responded by filing his Motion for Summary Judgment.
A “Motion for Summary Judgment” is normally filed by a Defendant. It’s usually filed after the Plaintiff files a lawsuit against the Defendant. Its purpose is to convince the Court the Plaintiff’s allegations are onlyvconclusions or speculations, and as such are void of any credible and material facts; and that the Plaintiffs conclusions do not, in and of themselves, raise any genuine issues of fact or law. As a result, going forward with the lawsuit would be an unnecessary use of the Court’s valuable time.
In his Motion, James argued that Beatter’s claims of serious bodily injury amounted to conclusions, and were no more than speculation about the extent and seriousness of his injuries. Beatter disagreed, arguing the facts he alleged were material and credible facts, and as such should be heard by a jury.
In the original lawsuit the Court considered the evidence and denied James’ Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court set the case for trial.
In its decision the Court found Beatter’s back injury settlement case presented enough evidence to establish sufficient credible facts to set the case for trial, and that the allegations of serious injury in Beatter’s lawsuit were credible and material, and were supported by objective evidence.
As a result, the Court denied James’ Motion for Summary Judgment, concluding James did not meet his burden to establish that Beatter’s allegations of injuries were conculsory and speculative.
James responded by filing an appeal.
The purpose of the Appeal was to decide whether the original court’s decision to deny James’ Motion for Summary Judgment was correct.
In the Appeal the Court’s duty was to reexamine the allegations set forth by Beatter in his original back injury settlement case, and to reexamine the evidence he submitted during the hearing on James’ Motion for Summary Judgment.
The Appeals Court’s duty also included a reexamination of the Defendant James’ evidence supporting his contention the original Court erred in denying his Motion for Summary Judgment.
For the Appeal, James submitted the emergency room records created by the hospital when Beatter was first seen after the collision.
Beatter pled in his original lawsuit that he suffered serious bodily injuries. James referred the Court to the emergency room physician’s diagnosis and prognosis of Beatter’s injury. He stated Beatter suffered:
…mild sprain of the patient’s cervical vertebrate and lumbar region at the C5. Patient told to keep off his feet for a few days, and to take Tylenol.”
In the Appeal James also offered into evidence the Verified Affidavits of two Board Certified physicians who, at the original Court’s direction and at James’ request, examined Beatter.
The first physician was Avery Atkins, M.D., a Board Certified Neurologist. In his Affidavit he stated he had reviewed the results of an MRI examination Beatter submitted to during his original lawsuit. Dr. Atkins testified the results of the MRI were “inconclusive.”
The second physician, Susan Goldsmith, M.D., a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon, said she had examined Beatter during the original trial, and 30 days after the collision between he and James. She stated in her medical opinion, and within a degree of reasonable medical certainty, that Beatter did suffer a mild sprain to his “cervical vertebrate and lumbar region at the C5.”
In his final argument to the appellate Court, James’ attorney argued the evidence submitted by Beatter in his original back injury settlement lawsuit and now, in his Appeal, did not rise to the level of material and credible facts and that Beatter’s allegations of injury were merely conclusions which invited one to speculate about the type and severity of his injuries.
In response to James’s evidence, Beatter submitted the Verified Affidavit of his treating neurosurgeon, Dr. Robert Daddario. Dr. Daddario examined Beatter 3 months after the collision. In his Affidavit he suggested Beatter:
“…may have sustained a back injury, loss of range of motion in the cervical spine, and a severe sprain to the lumbar region at level C5 and 6.”
Dr. Daddario said:
“The patient (Beatter) has an objective basis for his injuries and limitations to the normal function, purpose and use of the affected body organ, member, function or system.”
In his final argument to the appellate Court, Beatter’s attorney argued there was contradictory testimony between James’ physicians and his client Beatter’s, and those contradictions constituted sufficient material and credible facts to be decided at trial by a jury.
Beatter said he had met the burden of proof to convince the Appellate Court it should not try the case at the appellate level.
He stated it should instead let a jury decide the case based on the material and credible facts which Beatter’s back injury settlement case submitted into evidence in the original trial and during the Appeal.
With that, Beatter rested his case. It was now up to the Appellate Court to consider all the evidence and to decide whether to uphold the original court’s decision, or to overrule it.
After considering all of the evidence and arguments of counsel the court found the original court erred in denying Defendant James’ Motion for Summary Judgment in this back injury settlement case.
The Court found although Beatter offered evidence of his injuries, such evidence did not rise to the level of credible and material facts.
Without those facts there would be nothing for a jury to decide. The jury would only have evidence of conclusions and speculation. The Court said Beatter’s allegation of “serious bodily injury” was not supported by facts.
Therefore, the Court overturned the original Court’s decision and granted James’ Motion for Summary Judgment. In so doing the Appellate Court dismissed Plaintiff Beatter’s back injury settlement case with prejudice (meaning the case cannot be refiled).
We live in a litigious society. These days it seems anyone who is injured, no matter how slightly, thinks they have a lawsuit. They wonder, “How much can I get? What’s my case worth? How long will it take for me to get my money?” Some examples:
A mother took her child to the bus stop on the child’s way to school. It had been raining for hours. Each time a child climbed into the bus some water dripped onto the steps. A child slipped, cutting her chin slightly. The injury required no more than a band aid. The parents of the child sued the school district.
A woman was involved in a minor car accident. She didn’t suffer any injuries. After talking with her mother she decided to file suit against the driver alleging the accident caused post-traumatic stress disorder.
Each one of these cases was thrown out by the Court when the Defendants filed Motions for Summary Judgment.
Think very hard before filing a lawsuit. In the event you are injured consult with a personal injury attorney. If you have a basis for a lawsuit a good personal injury attorney will tell you.
Before filing a personal injury lawsuit keep in mind that filing a lawsuit is the first step in a long process. There are always at least two sides to every story. Once a lawsuit is filed you can be assured you will not immediately proceed to trial.
Be ready for a long pre-trial “Discovery” period. That’s the time before trial when the person you are suing fights back. Think before you act. If you still feel strongly about pursuing your case meet with a skilled personal injury attorney for a free consultation.
*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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