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Jafri v. Van Prooyen – $800,000 Verdict – Motor Vehicle Collision – Jonathan P. Crannell
April 27 @ 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM PDT
This is a rear-end, motor vehicle collision case that occurred on December 16, 2015. The photographs show minimal damage to the vehicles. The venue, DuPage County, is a conservative county known for defense verdicts. Ms. Jafri is a married 46 year old with two kids. She is a full-time teacher’s assistant. In 2010 and 2011 she saw a spine surgeon for low back pain with radiculopathy – an MRI revealed a disc herniation. In March of 2015, before the crash, she saw her primary care physician complaining of upper back and low back pain. When she was rear-ended, she went to the hospital by ambulance complaining of headache, neck, upper back, and lower back pain. She saw her primary care doctor who ordered MRI’s of cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine showing herniations in all three segments. She went to a pain management doctor, did physical therapy, got trigger point injections, and then her pain management doctor recommended TFESI’s and ESI’s for her cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. She never got them. She stopped treating in January of 2017 until January of 2021 at which point she returned to the pain management doctor who ordered new MRI’s and ultimately reiterated his recommendation for injections. She did not have any injections before trial. Negligence was admitted, Defense hired a pain management doctor as their expert who testified that Plaintiff does not need any future medical treatment. There were some issues with this doctor’s testimony that were handled pre-trial with motions that helped limit the effect he had on the case. Some bills were contested by a well-known billing expert in our area, Mary Rossi who testified live for the defense. Plaintiff asked for approximately $2.67 million, Defense suggested $50,000 or less.
The policy limits were $100k, plaintiff issued 3 policy limits demands, the last one was issued after the future medical recommendations were calculable. State Farm’s best offer was $25,000. The jury returned a verdict of $800,000. State Farm paid the entire verdict plus costs pursuant to their “assurance letter” to the Defendant.
- Voir Dire – mix of Don’t Eat the Bruises and Rowley, sliding scales for burden of proof – got 6 jurors off for cause, but upset the judge – lessons learned here.
- Establishing credibility by owning and normalizing the bad parts of the case in voir dire, opening, testimony of all witnesses, and closing
-Minimal damage to cars – voir dire, testimony of eye-witness, airbags deployed, defusing the defense arguments before they could make them (showing pictures first)
-Gap in treatment – life is messy, plaintiff is a mom and wife – a hero who sacrificed her well-being to take care of her husband and family, had resigned herself to her pain and injuries
-Pain management doctor was unpolished, got angry with defense attorney during deposition – explained to jury difference between treater and retained expert
– Pre-existing conditions – owned the prior herniation, showed it got bigger with treater testimony using MRI’s.
- Economic damages – $1.83 million for future medical treatment, $52,753.70 for past medical bills, explaining what the future medical verdict represents and establishing credibility by telling the jury to reduce future pain and suffering and loss of a normal life if they award future medical. If they don’t award future medical, they should award more for future pain and suffering.
- Non-economic damages – $350k past pain and suffering, $350k past loss of a normal life, $371k future pain and suffering, $371k future loss of a normal life. DuPage jurors typically don’t like non-economics, addressed in voir-dire and we had to find a way to show why they are important. Flip charts created during plaintiff’s testimony listing damages were used during closing. Her 15 year old son was the star damages witness – he was incredible and unimpeachable. Used spine model and colorized MRI’s for treater to explain herniations, teach jury how to read the MRI’s, show the injuries – “permanent, painful, and progressive.”
- Bills – usual and customary, related and necessary – used a foam board with stickers so that each time a bill was proven up by Plaintiff we added a red or green sticker to show “usual and customary” was proven by green and “related and necessary” proven by a red sticker. Took away billing expert’s credibility by being persistent in discovery, obtaining screenshots of the database she relied on. Found errors and bias in her numbers, capitalized on it with her on the stand. THIS COULD HAVE GONE BETTER, but jury awarded full bills anyway.
- Defense expert – plaintiff’s future damages were disclosed just before the Defense Expert’s evidence deposition – trial was continued so that Defendant could get an expert so long as the expert’s opinion was limited to future medical, permanency, or prognosis. Defense doctor tried to testify about the kitchen sink AND claimed to review a medical record that was never given to him. Got a good jury instruction regarding this and discredited in opening and closing.