Suit: Rear-ender led to three-level cervical fusion surgery
|Verbal Threshold, Motor Vehicle - No-Fault Case, Motor Vehicle - Rear-ender|
|Neville Wright v. Michael Juliano and Matthew Juliano, No. BUR-L-286-09|
|Burlington County Superior Court, NJ|
|Marc M. Baldwin
- Alfred J. Falcione; Flynn & Associates, P.C.; Cherry Hill, NJ, for Neville Wright
- Robert H. Ayik; Law Offices of William E. Staehle; Marlton, NJ, for [Travelers], Matthew Juliano, Michael Juliano
- Cynthia A. Satter; Law Offices of Stephen E. Gertler, P.C.; Wall, NJ, for [State Farm], Matthew Juliano, Michael Juliano
- State Farm for both defendants (excess)
- Travelers for both defendants (primary)
On Oct. 24, 2007, plaintiff Neville Wright, 54, an auto mechanic, was traveling eastbound on Route 70 in Evesham Township, near the intersection with Greenbrook Drive, when his vehicle was struck from the rear. Wright claimed the accident caused him to suffer herniated discs in his neck, among other injuries.
Wright sued the driver of the vehicle that struck his, Michael Juliano, and Matthew Juliano, to whom that other vehicle was registered.
Liability was stipulated, and the matter proceeded to trial as to damages-related issues only.
The auto liability insurer that provided primary coverage for the Juliano vehicle agreed to deposit with the court the $250,000 coverage limits of the relevant policy, and the trial proceeded with counsel retained by the excess carrier defending the case.
At trial, the defense raised the verbal-tort threshold as a bar to Wright's recovering for his alleged bodily injuries.
Following the accident, Wright was taken to a local hospital emergency room, where he was examined and released. He was instructed to follow up with an orthopedic specialist if his symptoms of back and neck pain did not subside.
Wright later received chiropractic care, but was eventually referred to an orthopedic surgeon. He was diagnosed with cervical disc herniations at C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7.
Wright also was diagnosed with right-side cervical radiculopathy that was consistent with his complaints of radicular pain to his right arm. Surgery was recommended, and Wright underwent a three-level cervical fusion.
The defense argued that Wright's cervical injuries were the result of gradual deterioration over a lengthy period of time, and were not causally related to the accident.
The jury determined that Wright had suffered permanent bodily injury that was causally related to the motor vehicle accident with Juliano, and returned a total damages award of $400,000.
(As the primary policy's $250,000 coverage limits had already been deposited with the court, the excess carrier was obligated to pay the $150,000 difference.)
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel and by defense counsel retained by the excess carrier. Defense counsel retained by the primary carrier did not respond to the reporter's telephone calls.