In one of the largest Post-Koken limited tort Uninsured Motorist verdicts reported in Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, Plaintiff Sheena Adams, who was represented by our firm Simon & Simon, was awarded $75,000 by a Philadelphia Jury last Thursday, April 2, 2015. Judge Marlene Lachman presided over the three day motor vehicle collision trial. After less than two (2) hours of deliberation, the eight member jury in Adams v. Dunbar, et al., Phila. CCP. No. 130602475 unanimously ruled that Ms. Adams was entitled to $75,000 in pain and suffering damages.
Before the trial commenced, one of our lawyers, Simon & Simon P.C. trial attorney Ray Tarnowski demanded that Defendant 21st Century Insurance tender its $15,000 uninsured motorist policy, which plaintiff had paid monthly for, but 21st Century only offered $317.00 – the excess medical bills. This matter was previously heard as a mandatory Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas arbitration in which the arbitrators found the plaintiff did not pierce the serious impairment threshold.
We appealed the arbitration and demanded a jury trial. The accident giving rise to the above award occurred on December 23, 2011 on W. Passyunk Ave in Philadelphia. Plaintiff, Sheena Adams, was driving her vehicle when it was rear-ended by an uninsured vehicle which was driven by the tortfeasor. 21st Century was Adams’s uninsured motorist carrier. After the collision, Adams picked up her infant son at her parents, filed a police report then later went to the Emergency Room when she felt pain. She then treated at Woodland Avenue Medical Center for about a month for low back pain and shoulder pain.
After learning she was pregnant, Adams stopped treating in January 2012 after just a month. She again sought medical attention in May 2013 for neck and low back pain. MRIs revealed herniated discs in her cervical and lumbar spines. EMGs of the upper and lower extremities were positive for radiculopathy that was consistent with the timing of the accident, the MRI and the physical examination findings.
Adams later received facet injections to her cervical spine and facet injections and an epidural injection to her lumbar spine. The defense claimed that Adams’ injuries were pre-existing. They identified numerous pre-accident Emergency Room, primary care physician and therapy records where Adams’ complained of low back pain and radiating pain into her legs along with records showing back and neck injuries from a 2006 motor vehicle accident.
Counsel for 21st Century, also asserted that Ms. Adams did not complain of neck pain in her post-accident ER visit or during her treatment at the chiropractor. He pointed out that no doctors discharged Adams from therapy at and after she stopped treating initially, Adams went to the ER for 4 subsequent incidents before resuming treatment in May 2013 and having the MRI and EMG testing. Furthermore, Adams continued to work full-time and go to school after the accident, eventually becoming a Registered Nurse. The defense presented Dr. Jennifer Frabizzio, a radiologist, as its medical expert.
She reviewed the cervical and lumbar MRIs, as well as two lumbar MRIs that were performed before this accident. Dr. Frabizzio opined that Adams’ lumbar herniations were pre-existing and the only cervical herniation she found was too bright to be related to the December 23, 2011 accident. Plaintiff did not assert a claim for lost wages or unpaid medical bills.
The lawsuit was limited to past and future pain and suffering and loss of life’s pleasures. After the three-day trial, the eight-member jury deliberated for less than two (2) hours before finding against the uninsured defendant and 21st Century Insurance for $75,000. The verdict was for past and future pain and suffering and loss of the Plaintiff’s life’s pleasures. At no point in the trial did 21st Century increase its $317 offer. Simon & Simon, will proceed with a bad faith claim against 21st Century, the Plaintiff’s insurer, for failure to tender its policy limits before verdict despite Plaintiff’s demand for them to do so.