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New Jersey Verdicts

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Culinary student said car crash ended her plan to become chef

Amount:

$1,800,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

New Jersey

Venue:

Sussex County

Court:

Sussex County Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

head-headaches; neck-herniated disc (herniated disc at C4-5), cervical (herniated disc at C4-5); other-physical therapy; other-epidural injections; neurological-radiculopathy

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle - Passenger, Rear-ender, Multiple Vehicle

Case Name:

Alexis Mongiello v. Gabrielle Gallagher, No. SSX-L-0618-14

Date:

June 21, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Alexis Mongiello (Female, 19 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Andrew A. Fraser; Laddey, Clark & Ryan; Sparta Township, NJ, for Alexis Mongiello ■ William B. Thayer; Laddey, Clark & Ryan, LLP; Sparta, NJ, for Alexis Mongiello

Plaintiff Expert(s):

James Dwyer; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Bridgewater, NJ called by: Andrew A. Fraser ■ Richard Snellings; M.D.; Radiology; Sparta, NJ called by: Andrew A. Fraser

Defendant(s):

Gabrielle Gallagher

Defense Attorney(s):

Chris W. Kemprowski; Law Office of David C. Harper; Bridgewater, NJ, for Gabrielle Gallagher

Defendant Expert(s):

David Rubinfeld; Orthopedic Surgery; Dover, NJ called by: Chris W. Kemprowski ■ Roger Berg; Radiology; Short Hills, NJ called by: Chris W. Kemprowski

Insurer(s):

Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. for Gabrielle Gallagher; Mercury Insurance Group for Gabrielle Gallagher

Facts:

On Nov. 9, 2012, plaintiff Alexis Mongiello, 18, a culinary school student, was the front-seat passenger in a Honda sedan traveling south on NJ-23, in Butler. While stopped at a red light, Mongiello's car was rear-ended by another sedan. She claimed neck injuries. Mongiello sued the other driver, Gabrielle Gallagher, alleging she had been negligent in the operation of a vehicle. Although the driver of the Honda, the mother of Mongiello's boyfriend, was not named as a defendant, Gallagher argued that she was at fault. Mongiello successfully moved for summary judgment on liability at the onset of trial.

Injury:

Mongiello was taken by ambulance to the emergency room of Chilton Medical Center, where she was examined and released. Several days later, she was seen at Morristown Medical Center with complaints of headaches and neck pain. She was given a cervical collar and released. Mongiello was ultimately diagnosed with a herniation at cervical intervertebral disc C4-5 with cervical-sourced radiculopathy. She was treated by her primary care practitioner and seen by a neurosurgeon, who prescribed pain medication and anti-inflammatories. She had physical therapy and, while treating with a pain management specialist, received an epidural injection of a steroid-based painkiller at the cervical spine. Mongiello said she continues to experience chronic neck pain, which she and her treating doctors believe is permanent. She said she was unable to pursue a career as a chef because of her condition. Mongiello's expert radiologist testified that her injuries were acute, were related to the collision, and were permanent. Her treating orthopedist testified that her disc injury was permanent and would eventually require a discectomy and fusion. Gallagher disputed damages, arguing that Mongiello's disc herniations and radiculopathy were pre-existing conditions, unrelated to the rear-end impact. She also maintained that Mongiello did not sustain any permanent injury. Gallagher's expert radiologist testified that Mongiello's herniation was small and appeared to be unrelated to the collision. Her expert orthopedic surgeon testified that Mongiello's alleged herniation was a disc bulge. He also found that it was unrelated to the impact.

Result:

The jury determined that Mongiello had sustained a permanent injury caused by the collision. She was awarded $1.8 million in non-economic damages. Gallagher had a primary insurance policy with Mercury Insurance Group and had an excess policy with Chubb Group of Insurance Cos.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Frank DeAngelis

Demand:

$250,000

Offer:

$18,000

Trial Length:

3  days

Trial Deliberations:

77  minutes

Jury Vote:

unanimous

Jury Composition:

two men/ four women

Post Trial:

Defense counsel's motions for remittitur and a new trial were denied.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.