Jury Awards $7,000,000 in Cervical Fusion Case - Judge Denies Defendants' Post-Trial Motion to Set Aside $5,000,000 Portion of the Verdict for Pain and Suffering


On December 26, 2003, a 37 year old nurse was involved in a car accident at an intersection in the Bronx when a Salvation Army van slammed into her car causing a herniated disc in her neck and nerve damage to her right arm....

...The van driver, Anita Peterson, claimed she had a green light and that the accident was caused by the other driver, Tara Kelly; however, on August 1, 2008, in Kelly v. Peterson (Supreme Court, Bronx County; Index #18607/04), a jury found that the accident was caused wholly by Ms. Peterson. A few months after that finding, on November 12, 2008 a new jury was empaneled to determine the amount of damages to which Ms. Kelly was entitled.

At that point, it was clear to all that Ms. Kelly would be awarded a large sum for her pain and suffering. As a result of the crash, she had undergone surgery – an anterior discectomy at C5-6 and a fusion of the two vertebrae at that level. The fusion involved the placement of a bone graft in the spine where the disc had been and the fixing of a plate with screws into the bone to prevent the bone graft from moving out of place.

Additionally, objective medical tests showed that plaintiff had suffered denervation in her dominant right arm leaving her with a permanent 30% loss of use.

Courtroom observers say that this case could have been settled for about $750,000 before the verdict in the damages trial but that the defense hadn't offered more than $500,000 to settle. So, the damages trial went forward and in the end the jury awarded $7,000,000: $5,000,000 for pain and suffering ($2,000,000 past – 5 years, $3,000,000 future – 48 years) plus $2,000,000 for future medical expenses.

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