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Driver claimed permanent spine damage at neck from broadside

Amount:

$1,264,638.61

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Florida

Venue:

Orange County

Court:

Orange County Circuit Court, 9th

Injury Type(s):

back; back-lower back; neck; neck-cervical disc injury; neck-herniated disc (herniated disc at C3-4), cervical (herniated disc at C3-4); neck-herniated disc (herniated disc at C4-5), cervical (herniated disc at C4-5); other-ablation; other-rhizotomy; other-soft tissue; other-arthroplasty; other-chiropractic; other-back and neck; other-steroid injection; other-epidural injections; other-cervical nerve entrapment; other-decreased range of motion; shoulder; neurological-radiculopathy; neurological-nerve damage/neuropathy

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle - Broadside, Red Light, Intersection, Multiple Vehicle, Underinsured Motorist

Case Name:

Stone Gomez v. Jerald William Mosley, Jr., and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, No. 2014-CA-000851-O

Date:

February 2, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Stone Gomez (Male, 29 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Wiley Andrew Rariden; The Trial Professionals, P.A.; Orlando, FL, for Stone Gomez

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Sean Mahan; M.D.; Diagnostic Radiology; Winter Springs, FL called by: Wiley Andrew Rariden ■ David Petersen; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Clearwater, FL called by: Wiley Andrew Rariden ■ Samuel Hess; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Orlando, FL called by: Wiley Andrew Rariden ■ Michael Henkelman; PT; Physical Therapy; Winter Park, FL called by: Wiley Andrew Rariden

Defendant(s):

Jerald William Mosley Jr., 

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Defense Attorney(s):

Michael R. Vaughn; Mimi L. Smith & Associates; Orlando, FL, for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. ■ Craig L. Brams; Mimi L. Smith & Associates; Orlando, FL, for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. ■ Jerald William Mosley Jr.; pro se; for Jerald William Mosley Jr.

Defendant Expert(s):

John Jenkins; Neurosurgery; Orlando, FL called by: Michael R. Vaughn, Craig L. Brams ■ David Rosenbach; Radiology; Tampa, FL called by: Michael R. Vaughn, Craig L. Brams

Insurer(s):

State Farm Insurance Cos.

Facts:

On May 7, 2012, plaintiff Stone Gomez, 29, a personal trainer, was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee north on Shady Lane, in Kissimmee. He entered the intersection with U.S. Route 192, on a green light and began to make a left turn onto the highway when his vehicle's driver's side was broadsided by a Honda civic, which ran a red light. He sustained injuries to his neck, back and left shoulder. Gomez sued the other driver, Jerald Mosley Jr., alleging negligence. Gomez also sued his insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., seeking damages beyond the $100,000 limit of his underinsured motorist insurance policy. Mosley did not have insurance coverage for bodily injuries and he did not seek legal counsel. Counsel for State Farm admitted that Mosley's negligence caused the accident, but disputed causation and damages.

Injury:

Gomez claimed herniations of cervical intervertebral discs C3-4 and C4-5, with right-sided nerve-root compression and radiculopathy. He also claimed soft-tissue injuries to his lower back and his left (non-dominant) shoulder. After the accident, Gomez was driven to the emergency room at Florida Hospital, in Kissimmee, where he complained of pain in his left shoulder, neck and back. He was given a neck brace and released several hours later. The next day, he went to a physical rehabilitation clinic, where he was recommended for chiropractic treatment and a cervical MRI. He came under the care of a pain-management specialist and was administered a series of facet-block injections to the C3-4 and C4-5 levels. On Aug. 23, an orthopedic surgeon referred Gomez for a series of painkilling injections. Over several months, Gomez had a nerve-block injection, a transforaminal epidural steroid injection and a cervical ablation procedure. On May 24, 2013, Gomez underwent a right-sided rhizotomy, which is a severing of spinal-cord nerve-roots to relieve pain, at C3-4 and C4-5. He had a left-sided rhizotomy on July 26. However, Gomez did not experience permanent pain relief and he was recommended for a cervical fusion. A second orthopedic surgeon rendered the opinion that Gomez would benefit from a cervical disc replacement, instead of a hardware-assisted fusion, because it is less invasive. On Oct. 20, 2014, Gomez underwent a total cervical disc replacement at C4-5. Gomez's treating orthopedic surgeons agreed that he would require future neck surgery; however, one recommended a hardware-assisted cervical fusion of the C3-4 disc while the other testified he would benefit from a total disc replacement at that level. The surgeons concluded Gomez sustained a permanent neck injury that was causally related to the accident. Gomez's expert in physical therapy and pre- and post-operative physical therapy reviewed a video taken from Gomez's professional Facebook page, which was entered into evidence and which showed him performing personal training exercises during the months between the rhizotomy and disc replacement procedures. The expert determined that none of the exercises were inconsistent with a C4-5 disc herniation. He testified that he would recommend many of the exercises to pre-surgical clients to prepare their musculature for surgery and to enhance and accelerate their recovery. Gomez claimed that the injuries to his lower back and his shoulder resolved and that the total disc replacement surgery alleviated his right-sided radiculopathy. He contended that he continues to suffer from axial pain in his neck which limits his range of motion and performance of certain exercises as a personal trainer. His counsel asked the jury to award damages of about $800,000. Defense counsel argued that Gomez's injuries pre-dated the accident and the herniations were caused by degenerative changes. Counsel also argued that Gomez had a history of prior back and neck pain that was documented in his VA medical records, and claimed that Gomez denied having any prior neck or back pain when asked about his medical history at a pre-trial deposition. The defense's expert orthopedic surgeon testified that only the first three months of Gomez's post-accident treatment was necessary, reasonable and related to the accident. State Farm's expert radiologist reviewed Gomez's post-accident MRIs and made no findings of trauma in and concluded that his injuries were degenerative. The defense's expert radiologist also reviewed the results of magnetic resonance angiography imaging studies that Gomez underwent three months prior to the accident, and found images showed pathology at the levels in his cervical spine he complained about after the accident.

Result:

The jury awarded Gomez $1,264,638.61.

Stone Gomez: $284,639 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $300,000 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $250,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $430,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering

Trial Information:

Judge:

Renee A. Roche

Demand:

$600,000

Offer:

$100,000

Trial Length:

4  days

Trial Deliberations:

1  hours

Jury Vote:

6-0

Jury Composition:

3 male/ 3 female

Post Trial:

State Farm filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the jury heard information about the plaintiff that should have been barred, and that defendant made an unexpected appearance at trial. The court rejected the motion and an appeal by State Farm is pending. Plaintiff's counsel filed a bad-faith claim against State Farm for failing to pay benefits. The claim is pending.

Editor's Comment:

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