Man claimed herniated discs limit his ability to play with kids
|Rear-ender, Motor Vehicle - Verbal Threshold, Motor Vehicle - Multiple Impact, Motor Vehicle - Multiple Vehicle|
|John Geffrard v. Matthew J. Rowlands and Viola Massaquoi, No. MER-2374-10|
|Mercer County Superior Court, NJ|
|Anthony M. Massi
- R. David Blake; R. David Blake, PC; Hamilton, NJ, for John Geffrard
- Joseph Falzone D.C.; Chiropractic; Trenton, NJ called by: R. Blake
- Gerald Vernon D.O.; Pain Management; Woodbury Heights, NJ called by: R. Blake
- Brooke A. Bonett; Law Office of Anthony P. Castellani; Marlton, NJ, for Matthew Rowlands
- None reported; null, null, for Viola Massaquoi
- GEICO for Rowlands
On Nov. 19, 2008, plaintiff John Geffrard, 35, a security guard, was stopped at a red light on Olden Avenue in Ewing Township when his vehicle was struck from the rear by the car immediately behind him, which was being driven by Viola Massaquoi. Massaquoi's stopped car reportedly had been pushed forward into the Geffrard vehicle when it was struck by the automobile being driven by Matthew Rowlands.
Geffrard sued Rowlands and Massaquoi for negligence.
Massaquoi was voluntarily dismissed from the case when it was determined that her vehicle had been at a complete stop before being struck from behind by the Rowlands vehicle.
Rowlands had a $15,000 automobile liability policy and there was no underinsured motorist insurance available to Geffrard. Although Rowlands admitted liability with respect to the accident, and to the resulting $1,400 worth of property damage to Geffrard's vehicle, the defense invoked a verbal threshold defense, and the case proceeded to trial as to damages-related issues, with a stipulation that the medical evidence would be presented pursuant to the expedited basis that allows for the direct presentation of medical reports and records without the necessity of live testimony.
Two days after the accident, Geffrard went to the emergency room at the hospital where he worked as a security guard. He complained of neck and back pain. Approximately three weeks later, Geffrard went to a chiropractor and began treatment for neck and back pain.
MRI studies revealed a cervical-disc bulge at C3-4, and a lumbar-disc bulge at L5-S1. An EMG confirmed left-sided L5-S1 radiculopathy. Orthopedic examinations and pain-management therapies confirmed that Geffrard was not a good surgical candidate.
In addition to eight months of chiropractic care, Geffrard had 26 acupuncture treatments. He did not lost a substantial amount of time from work as a result of the injuries he attributed to the underlying crash. He testified that, with respect to his lasting pain, he has had good and bad days. He claimed the pain has limited his ability to play with his two minor children and to engage in sports such as soccer and basketball.
A key issue during the litigation was Geffrard's past military service in Afghanistan and Iraq, during which he was involved in a great deal of physical activity but reportedly experienced no prior neck or back pain or disability.
The defense's expert orthopedic surgeon concluded that there was no evidence of cervical-disc bulge, and opined that the lumbar-disc damage was degenerative in nature, as indicated by a loss of disc height. In addition, the expert found that Geffrard was not suffering from radiculopathy and or any serious orthopedic disability or injury.
Defense counsel argued that whatever injuries Geffrard may have suffered as a result of the subject accident were not sufficiently serious to pierce the verbal tort threshold.
The jury returned a damages award of $100,000.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel and by defense counsel for Rowlands. Massaquoi -- for whom no attorney is listed in the court's docketing system -- was not asked to contribute.