James Whalen, Adam Schwartzstein Obtain Defense Verdict

New York Partners James T. Whalen Jr. and Adam Schwartzstein recently obtained a defense verdict in a trucking litigation matter.

The plaintiff was a 45-year-old male who was seated in the driver's seat of a parked vehicle in Brooklyn, New York, when a portion of the tractor-trailer traveling down the street struck the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff alleged to have sustained multiple herniations that necessitated spinal fusion surgery. He also alleged tears in his right shoulder and left knee. Liability was conceded before the trial commenced in Brooklyn federal court.

During a one-week trial, the plaintiff relied on his spinal surgeon expert, who testified that the injuries that necessitated fusion surgery were caused by trauma from the subject accident.

We argued that the plaintiff’s injuries were degenerative and/or preexisting and were not a result of the minor, low-impact accident between the vehicles. We relied on three experts: a spinal surgeon expert, an orthopedist that specializes in shoulders and knees, and a biomechanical expert. The medical experts testified that the plaintiff did not sustain any acute trauma and that their readings of the MRI films found normal studies with degenerative changes. The biomechanical expert then testified in accordance with the findings of the medical experts and opined that the plaintiff could not have sustained the alleged injuries as a result of the mechanism of the minor, low-impact accident.

The plaintiff’s settlement demand throughout the course of the mediation and during trial was millions of dollars. Immediately before trial, a high/low agreement was proposed to plaintiff’s counsel but was rejected. Instead, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury for more than twice of the multimillion dollar settlement demand during closing arguments.

The jury deliberated for several hours before returning a unanimous defense verdict, finding that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the accident and that the plaintiff did not sustain any injuries from the accident. No damages were awarded to the plaintiff.

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