Driver said crash caused fresh lower-back symptoms
|Left Turn, Motor Vehicle - Intersection, Motor Vehicle - Verbal Threshold, Motor Vehicle - No-Fault Case|
|Madelyn Cordero v. Meghan Chokshi and John J. Chokshi, No. UNN-L-406-11|
|Union County Superior Court, NJ|
- Richard L. Kuhrt; Law Offices of Richard L. Kuhrt; Elizabeth, NJ, for Madelyn Cordero
- Joseph Nieroda D.C.; Chiropractic; Elizabeth, NJ called by: Richard Kuhrt
- Matthew Cohen; Law Offices of John F.X. Kennedy; Piscataway, NJ, for Meghan E. Chokshi, John J. Chokshi
- GEICO for both defendants
On Jan. 28, 2012, plaintiff Madelyn Cordero, 35, a visiting home aide, was driving on Morris Avenue, through the intersection with North Avenue, in Union (near the Elizabeth border), when her car was struck by a vehicle coming in the opposite direction and reportedly attempting to make a left turn onto North Avenue. The accident allegedly caused Cordero to suffer a bulging disc in her lower back, among other injuries.
Cordero sued the driver of the other car, Megan Chokshi, for negligence. (Also joined was Chokshi's husband, to whom the vehicle she was driving was registered.)
Liability was stipulated, and the case proceeded to trial as to damages-related issues. The parties agreed to try the case pursuant to the expedited procedure whereby medical records and expert reports may be introduced into evidence without the necessity of live witness testimony.
Following the crash, Cordero was taken by ambulance to a local hospital emergency room, where she complained of back and neck pain. She was examined and released with instructions to follow up with an orthopedic specialist.
Cordero followed up with a chiropractor, who treated her for her symptoms. When her treatment did not relieve her pain, she was sent for pain management, and received one lumbar epidural injection. MRI studies revealed a disc bulge at L5-S1. Cordero also complained of right-shoulder and right-knee pain, and of headaches.
The defense interposed the verbal tort threshold as a bar to Cordero's recovering for her personal injuries, contending that she could not meet her burden of proving permanent bodily injury causally related to the accident.
The defense pointed to a portion of Cordero's medical records that suggested that she had presented to a hospital emergency room seven months prior to the accident, and complained of ankle and back pain at that time. There was no specific claim of a traumatic cause of those symptoms, it was argued, and X-rays taken at that time were interpreted as showing lumbar-disc thinning.
The defense argued that the evidence of the prior medical complaints relating to the lumbar spine corroborated the defense's contention that concluded the current complaints, if real, were entirely preexisting.
(While Cordero was not urging aggravation of a pre-existing condition in the first instance, the defense argument about the prior injuries opened the door to the jury's receiving a charge regarding aggravation of a pre-existing injury.)
The jury determined that Cordero had suffered permanent bodily injury as a result of the underlying motor vehicle accident, and awarded Cordero $25,000 in unspecified damages.
(The stipulation to try the case pursuant to the expedited procedure also involved an agreement to cap any damages award at the primary policy limits of $15,000. Cordero had underinsured-motorist-benefits coverage of $10,000 through her own auto liability policy.)
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.