Articles Posted in Westchester County

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This is an action for personal injury in which a Bronx man alleges that he sustained an injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident. A vehicle owned by a cab cormpany struck the man’s vehicle in the rear. The man claims that as a result of the accident he sustained spine injury, back pain, muscle spasms in lumbar spine and radiculopathy. The opponent however requests to dismiss the case agasint them on the ground that the man failed to meet the serious injury threshold.

In support of their motion, the opponents submitted the affirmed medical report of a radiologist who reviewed the MRI of the man’s thoracic spine. The opponent also submitted the affirmed medical report of a board certified neurologist and the man’s deposition testimony.

The Westchester radiologist found a scoliosis and diffuse degenerative changes of the thoracic intervertebral discs of the man and concluded that the small posterior disc protrusions present are of uncertain age and etiology and may be degenerative in nature.

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On 6 July 2006, plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident. Consequently, plaintiff filed a personal injury action against The Bronx defendant to recover damages for the injuries he sustained as a result of the accident. In opposition, defendant moved for a motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s complaint on the ground that plaintiff has not sustained a serious injury within the meaning of Insurance Law.

The issue that was brought before the court for resolution was whether or not plaintiff has sustained a personal injury that is within the definition of serious injury under Insurance Law, and, as such, entitles him to recover damages from defendant.

As provided for under the no-fault law, in order to maintain an action for personal injury, a plaintiff must establish that a serious injury has been sustained. This is pursuant to the ruling of the court in the landmark case of Licari v. Elliot which was decided sometime in 1982. As a rule, the proponent of a motion for summary judgment must tender sufficient evidence to show the absence of any material issue of fact and the right to judgment as a matter of law; as held in the case of Alvarez v. Prospect Hospital, in 1986, and the case of Winegrad v. New York Univ. Medical Center, in 1985. Pursuant to the court’s ruling in the case of Lowe v. Bennett, which was decided by the 1st Department sometime in 1986, the burden rests on defendants to establish, by the submission of evidentiary proof in admissible form, that plaintiff has not suffered a serious injury. When a defendant’s motion is sufficient to raise the issue of whether a serious injury has been sustained, the burden shifts and it is then incumbent upon the plaintiff to produce prima facie evidence in admissible form to support the claim of serious injury. This was the Westchester court’s ruling in the cases of Licari v. Elliot and Lopez v. Senatore, in 1985. In support of a claim that plaintiff has not sustained a serious injury, a defendant may rely either on the sworn statements of the defendant’s examining physician or the unsworn reports of plaintiff’s examining physician. Once the burden shifts, it is incumbent upon plaintiff, in opposition to defendant’s motion, to submit proof of serious injury in admissible form. Unsworn reports of plaintiff’s examining doctor or chiropractor will not be sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Thus, a medical affirmation or affidavit which is based on a physician’s personal examination and observations of plaintiff is an acceptable method to provide a doctor’s opinion regarding the existence and extent of a plaintiff’s serious injury. As held in the cases of Gonzalez v. Vasquez in 2003 and Ayzen v. Melendez in 2002, unsworn MRI reports are not competent evidence unless both sides rely on those reports. However, in order to be sufficient to establish a prima facie case of serious physical injury, the affirmation or affidavit must contain medical findings, which are based on the physician’s own examination, tests and observations and review of the record rather than manifesting only the plaintiff’s subjective complaints. It must be noted that a chiropractor is not one of the persons authorized by the CPLR to provide a statement by affirmation, and thus, for a chiropractor, only an affidavit containing the requisite findings will suffice; as ruled in the cases of Pichardo v. Blum in 1999 and Feintuch v. Grella in 2003. In any event, the findings, which must be submitted in a competent statement under oath, or affirmation, when permitted, must demonstrate that plaintiff sustained at least one of the categories of serious injury as enumerated in Insurance Law. For example, in the case of Parker v. DeFontaine, it was held that a medical affidavit, which demonstrated that the plaintiff’s threshold motion limitations were objectively measured and observed by the physician, was sufficient to establish that plaintiff has suffered a serious injury within the meaning of that term as set forth in Article 51 of the Insurance Law. In other words, a physician’s observation as to actual limitations qualifies as objective evidence since it is based on the physician’s own examinations. Besides, in the absence of objective medical evidence in admissible form of serious injury, plaintiff’s self-serving affidavit is insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact.

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This action arises out of an automobile accident. It is alleged that at the time of the accident, the complainant man was the driver of a motor vehicle in which the complainant women were passengers; and that the complainants’ vehicle was rear-ended by the defendants’ vehicle.

Under the no-fault law, in order to maintain an action for personal injury, a complainant must establish that a serious injury has been sustained. The proponent of a motion for summary judgment must tender sufficient evidence to show the absence of any material issue of fact and the right to judgment as a matter of law. In the present action, the burden rests on the defendants to establish, by the submission of evidentiary proof in admissible form, that the complainant man has not suffered a serious injury. When a defendant’s motion is sufficient to raise the issue of whether a serious injury has been sustained, the burden shifts and it is then incumbent upon the complainant to produce legitimate evidence in admissible form to support the claim of serious injury.

In support of a claim that the Westchester complainant has not sustained a serious injury, a defendant may rely either on the sworn statements of the defendant’s examining physician or the unsworn reports of the complainant’s examining physician. Once the burden shifts, it is incumbent upon the complainant, in opposition to defendant’s motion, to submit proof of serious injury in admissible form. Unsworn reports of the complainant’s examining doctor or chiropractor will not be sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Thus, a medical affirmation or affidavit which is based on a physician’s personal examination and observations of the complainant is an acceptable method to provide a doctor’s opinion regarding the existence and extent of a complainant’s serious injury. Unsworn MRI reports are not competent evidence unless both sides rely on those reports. However, in order to be sufficient to establish a legitimate case of serious physical injury the affirmation or affidavit must contain medical findings, which are based on the physician’s own examination, tests and observations and review of the record rather than manifesting only the complainant’s subjective complaints. It must be noted that a chiropractor is not one of the persons authorized by the Civil Practice Law and Rules to provide a statement by affirmation, and thus, for a chiropractor, only an affidavit containing the requisite findings will suffice.

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A employee of a nursing home also worked part-time at a realty office as a clerk. She was married and she had young children. She rode as a passenger in the car driven by a friend. The car she was riding in was involved in a car accident. She lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. When she regained consciousness, she complained of pain in her neck, her spine, her shoulder, her wrist, her hips, her knees and her ankle.

The initial diagnosis was a fracture of her cervical spine. MRI and CT Scans as well as x-rays were taken of her but a fracture was ruled out. She stayed a total of three days in the hospital but she was later discharged. She was ordered to see a neurologist to determine the cause of her pain. She was also advised to see an orthopedist and a chiropractor for the management of the pain she was experiencing. She was also advised to undergo physical therapy.

The Westchester employee testified that she sustained a back injury at work sometime six years prior to the accident and she was also in a motor vehicle accident nine years prior to the accident. She experienced pain in her lower spine and legs but she also testified that the pain she felt then was not in the same area that she feels pain now. She claims that she can no longer lift heavy things the way she used to do before the accident in 2006. She worked in a nursing home and her duties include assisting the elderly patients and residents in the nursing home. After the accident, she can no longer stand or sit for long periods of time and she has difficulty assisting to the patients’ physical needs. She couldn’t engage in sports the way she used to do prior to the accident and she cannot do laundry anymore as laundry involved bending down and lifting heavy clothes, lifting wet clothes and putting them in the dryer. All the movements involved the use of her back which now gave her constant pain.

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A Manhattan man suffered serious as the result of an automobile accident. He was taken to a Hospital where he was evaluated by several physicians, including a surgeon, an orthopedist, and a radiologist. These physicians misinterpreted the man’s x-rays and radiological studies and negligently concluded that he did not suffer a recent spinal injury.

As a result, the attending Westchester surgeon and assistant encouraged him man to attempt to walk approximately a week after the accident. When he arose from the bed, he felt a shock and collapsed. He was transferred to a Medical Center where he underwent surgery on his spine. However, the surgery was unsuccessful in reversing the spinal column damage.

The man retained a law firm to investigate and initiate a medical malpractice action against the various physicians. Although the man’s counsel considered joining the Hospital physicians individually in the medical malpractice suit, for various reasons he decided not to join them and sent intent to sue only to the Hospital and Medical Center Regional and its physicians. When the complaint was filed, however, the Hospital was not named. During discovery, the man’s counsel realized that the Medical Center Regional’s defense was based upon the comparative fault of the Hospital and its physicians. At this point, the statute of limitations had expired, and the counsel realized the potential of a legal medical malpractice claim for failing to join them. The counsel contacted his insurance company. He also referred the man to a new counsel. The man settled with the Medical Center Regional and its physicians for $1,000,000, and then brought a legal medical malpractice action against his counsel and his firm, which the man’s insurance company agreed to settle for the policy limits. However, the parties disputed whether the “per claim” amount applied or whether the aggregate amount applied. Specifically, the parties disputed whether the attorney’s failure to name the Hospital and each individual physician constituted independent wrongful acts or a single claim.

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On March 12 of 2010, a school security guard was struck by the car of one of the parents while attempting to assist her with a traffic issue. He approached her car as she sat in the traffic line to drop off her child. After she pulled in, a school bus pulled in behind her. Her vehicle was blocked. The Westchester security guard approached her vehicle from the front. As he passed in front of her car, she inexplicably drove forward striking the security guard. He incurred a personal injury that resulted in a lawsuit against the woman and her insurance company, but also the owner of the car and their insurance company.

The car was owned by a vehicle leasing company. They had an internal policy against leasing cars to people with revoked or suspended driver’s licenses. Upon investigation, the security guard had discovered that the car had been leased by the woman’s boyfriend who had a restricted driver’s license. The security guard maintains that the company employee violated policy when he leased the car to the man. The man’s driving record clearly indicating that he was not a safe driver as per the standards set by the leasing company itself. The security guard believes that if the leasing company had not leased the car to the man in violation of their own internal policy, he could not have loaned it to his girlfriend, and she would not have hit him with it causing his injury.

The security guard maintains that he was injured so severely as to have to miss several days of work and suffering from injuries so severe that they have altered his lifestyle. He stated that he had a spine injury, head injury, hip and knee injuries that required surgery. He stated that he is no longer able to play ball with his grandchildren or to maintain a normal lifestyle.

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A case against the State of New York was filed by the administrators of Tonya M. Hilliker’s estate. The claim was that two New York State troopers acted with “reckless disregard” in pursuing another vehicle. They allege that Ms. Hilliker of The Bronx died because of that recklessness. The car that they were chasing hit other vehicles. This happened on April 19, 2003 at approximately 2:30 A.M. in the City of Glens Falls.

In the evidence presented, it showed that Trooper Matthew Gilbert of Westchester was being closely followed by a white car. In the vehicle with him was Trooper Kevin Bouyea, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. The white car turned left from Main Street to South Western Avenue. The troopers continued to travel the main street and turned left onto Luzerne Road to see why the other vehicle was following them. A Lawyer mentioned that it was the time that the troopers noticed the white car heading straight toward them. It was going the opposite way on a one-way street. Trooper Gilbert avoided getting hit by pulling the patrol car on the side of the road. The white car passed them. In pursuit of the other vehicle, Trooper Gilbert made a U-turn and activated their emergency lights. The white car did not immediately turn on Broad Street. What the troopers did was to activate their siren. There was no evidence of traffic on Broad Street at the time of pursuit.

While on Broad Street, the speed of the white car was at 80-85 miles per hour, and the troopers were at 70 miles per hour when they were trying to get the plate numbers. They said that they slowed to about 50 miles per hour after getting the license plate as they were concerned about the safety if they continued that kind of chase. They lost sight of the vehicle for a few seconds after it turned at South Street. When they saw it again it was going into a bouncing stop. They exited their vehicle with guns drawn, said a Lawyer. At the scene Timothy Culligan said he was talking to Ms. Hilliker and Walter LaBarge. He was inside his car while the two were standing outside. This was when his car was struck by the white car. In the reconstruct, it was determined that the white vehicle was driving at least 82 miles per hour. For all the witnesses, they said that after the crash the police officers were immediately there about 10 feet away from the white car. This is contrary to the evidence of the lack of contact from the trooper’s vehicle, and that lack of skid marks made by the trooper’s car. Although, when the statement of Trooper Gilbert and Trooper Bouyea were compared there was a difference. A reporter got information that, Trooper Bouyea said he saw the white car hit other vehicles, which meant that they would have been near enough. There is also the undeniable knowledge of both troopers knew at that time, there are a lot of people in that area.

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A Westchester taxi company filed a request to grant them a decision without trial in dismissing the complaint against them on the ground that the complainant man failed to support a serious injury allegation. However, the complainant man filed a cross motion and for sanctions based upon the court’s prior ruling awarding him a decision without trial regarding the liability.

The action stemmed from the complaint of personal injury action filed by the man against the driver of the taxi, the taxi company and the owner of the taxi. The man alleged that he was stopped at the traffic light when the taxi hit into his vehicle. The driver of the taxi escaped and throughout the proceeding the driver’s location cannot be identified that’s why the taxi company was held vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence.

The taxi company argues that the man has failed to meet the legal requirements of a serious injury under the insurance law. Based on records, serious injury is defined as a personal injury which results in death, dismemberment, significant disfigurement, a fracture, loss of a fetus, permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system, permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ, significant limitation of use of a body function or system, a medically determined impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the impairment.

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On August 24, 2002 nonparty driver was driving a van with eight passengers, one of whom was an adult and seven of whom were children. While driving on a divided highway in Pennsylvania, the driver lost control of the van when the right rear tire blew out. During the resulting crash, the van barrel-rolled across the median and became airborne before landing in the lanes of oncoming traffic. All of the children were ejected from the van and sustained varying degrees of injury. The adult passenger, who remained in the vehicle, died. The appellant lawyer was retained to litigate an action on behalf of the estate and the husband of the deceased, and on behalf of these five infant passengers.

Appellant based her action upon conclusion that the tire at issue had been improperly repaired and was not the proper size for the van. Second, she concluded that the van had a faulty liftgate latch, which allowed the liftgate to open during the car accident. Consequently, she named the manufacturer of the van as a defendant.

Appellant lawyer requested an award of an attorney’s fee in a sum consistent with her retainer agreement, representing one third of the net settlement from the manufacturer of the van and 25% of the net settlement from the driver’s insurer. The Supreme Court approved so much of the proposed infant’s compromise order as concerned the amounts recovered by the infant plaintiffs, but awarded appellant lawyer an attorney’s fee in a sum representing approximately 25% of the aggregate net settlement. The lawyer appealed.

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This involves a motion where the court denied defendant’s prayer for summary judgment to dismiss the claim of plaintiff.

Plaintiff Bianca Watler and her mother commenced an action to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained in a car accidentthat occurred on Prospect Street in Kings County on October 25, 1996. The accident allegedly happened when a vehicle driven by defendant struck the rear of a vehicle operated by plaintiff, which was stopped due to traffic conditions on Prospect Street. The bill of particulars alleges that plaintiff sustained various injuries as a result of the collision, including a bulging disc at level L5-S1 of the lumbosacral spine; lumbar radiculopathy; right knee sprain/strain; cervical and lumbosacral sprains/strains; and “cervical paraspinal myofascitis with discogenic radiculopathy.” It further alleges that plaintiff, who sought treatment at the emergency department of Brooklyn Hospital Center immediately after the accident, was confined to home for approximately six months due to her injuries.

Defendant moves for summary judgment dismissing the claim of plaintiff on the ground that she is precluded by Insurance Law §5104 from recovering for non-economic loss, as she did not sustained a “serious injury” within the meaning of Insurance Law §5102 (d).

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