Congratulations to Jeff Powers and Adam Beecher for receiving a $375,000 jury verdict in Bibb Superior this afternoon!The plaintiff was a 69 year old man who had a “train wreck” of a back (2 prior surgeries) and was on disability when the 2011 wreck occurred. This information was presented to the jury at the start by Powers and Beecher, and they let every medical record go into evidence.The plaintiff’s vehicle was hit by a sales-rep for Source Care Management, when she ran a stop sign in Dublin while checking her navigation system.The medical costs were around $170,000 (including the cost of a lumbar discectomy and fusion), and there were no lost wages.The final offer at mediation was $75,000. Wallace Miller (representing Source Care) and Bill Shelton (for the driver) defended the case, which was before Judge Ennis.
The defense argued the injury was preexisting and that the defendants were not responsible for surgery due to the condition of his back.
In closings, Jeff used a timeline to display the fact that their client had no treatment for back issues in the 10 years before the 2011 wreck, and deposition clips were played of the plaintiff’s treating physician and of the defense’s expert physician, both of which were particularly compelling.
It was obvious to anyone in the courtroom that Adam and Jeff believed in their client, and their preparation and presentation was outstanding. I look forward to hearing more of the details from them both. I understand it was a battle up to the very end!
INSIGHTS BY ATTY. JEFF POWERS
Mr. Curtis Isaac was one of 12 children born to two hardworking parents who were sharecroppers in Dublin, Ga. He dropped out of the 8th grade to help his parents work on the land they lived on which consisted of picking cotton, soybeans and tobacco crops. After several years of living with his family he went to work in Detroit for Ford Motor Co and then came back to Dublin to work for a construction company. In 1967, he began working for Roche Farm & Garden doing heavy manual labor. He worked there for 32 years until severe lower back pain at L4/5 levels forced him to quit. He filed a worker’s compensation case against his employer for a fictional date of injury. He retired from Roche in 1999 and had a microdiscectomy and then another in 2001 at the same level. The SSA determined him disabled because of his back problems in 1999. Having worked his whole life, he didn’t like not working so he worked odd jobs with his brother-in-law, such as raking pinestraw, cutting grass. He also worked as a helper for his brother-in-law’s masonry business. Mr. Isaac never earned much at these odd jobs, and we didn’t ask for any lost wages since he was getting SSDI.
On September 12, 2011 Mr. Isaac was injured in a car accident. At the time of the accident, he was 65 yrs old, driving to see a friend in downtown Dublin. The defendant was an employee of Source Care who was driving her personal car. She was traveling to Hawkinsville and was looking at her GPS. She didn’t see the stop sign and ran into Mr. Isaac. They admitted fault for causing the wreck. The driver was very nice and made a great impression. I crossed her for about 3 minutes.
The paramedics who treated Mr. Isaac at the accident scene and took him to the hospital noted that he complained of back pain that day. After the wreck, most of the treatment Mr. Isaac had was for his neck and shoulders. It was 7 months later when his lower back began hurting again. That’s when Dr. Pollydore ordered a lumbar MRI. Defense attorney used a fax cover sheet from Dr. Stefanis’ office that said patient was not surgical 3 months after wreck. Dr. Stefanis, however, had never examined Mr. Isaac. Pollydore recommended injections and Curtis returned to Dublin to see Dr. Hardmann, who began giving him these 1 yr after the wreck. This went on for another year and then Hardmann sent him to Dr. Holliday in Feb. 2014 when he was finally worked up surgically. In April 2014 he had a fusion at L4/5 which was the same level that was operated on in 1999 and 2001. We agreed to tender all the medical records to the jury.
Judge Ennis allowed the evidence of him being on SSDI because Dr. Holliday testified he suffered a 23% impairment from the fusion at L4/5. I told the jury in voir dire, opening, and closing that Mr. Isaac was on disability, but that he didn’t deserve this “sentence of pain/surgery given to him by the Defendants.” Dr. Holliday did a great job causally linking the surgery to the wreck, but under cross exam he began to criticize President Obama. We filed a MIL to keep out his comments but somehow the statement, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat and I don’t agree with anything Pres. Obama does….” came out during trial. In his closing, the defense counsel reminded the jury of this. He said, ” which doctor did you like better – Gorum or Holliday? And why was Dr. Holliday so ornery during the deposition? You heard those comments he made about President Obama.” I said that it doesn’t matter who the doctor votes for for President – that’s what is great about our country – we can vote for anyone we want. You are here to decide the harm done to Mr. Isaac, not what opinion a doctor has of the President or his policies.
We had a pretrial conference and there was some preliminary discussion that we were going to be prevented from telling jury she was working when the wreck happened. Fortunately, after filing a brief in response to the Defendant’s motion in limine, the Court went our way and allowed the testimony.
Defendants hired Dr. Michael Gorum in December 2014, who testified that he agreed surgery was necessary but the reason he had it was due to DDD and not trauma. He said our client had pain from wreck but his foot drop and need for surgery was anatomically caused by a “glacial change in his back from years of hard work, (cigarette smoking) and him being overweight.” They then redeposed him one week before trial to show him the films from 2001 which the doctor said “it was the biggest herniation in Mr. Isaac’s back that he’s seen in 25 yrs of being a neurosurgeon.” Gorum also said that his vertebrae was bone on bone and there were osteophytes growing in his spine which is why Dr. Holliday operated.
Defendants argued that this was a very complicated medical case with a bunch of long words and confusing testimony. I said it is not complicated. He was not treating for back pain for 10 years after he had the second microdiscectomy until they crashed into him. If was in such dire straights where are the medical records showing that his back hurt? People go to the doctor if they are in pain. They don’t go get their DDD checked if it is asymptomatic. People go see their doctor if it’s a routine physical, an OB GYN appt, or the dentist.
We are so humbled by and appreciative of your nice comments. I have known Mr. Isaac for over 14 years and it was a true honor to represent such a wonderful and deserving person. We mediated the case with Tommy Greer in November and, after many hours, it went nowhere. It seemed we were mediating two different cases. Adam Beecher did an incredible job with doing a lot of the work and helping me prepare. He did a great job of the client’s direct and redirect of Curtis and the character witness. We interviewed more character witnesses but they were not very strong. I am grateful for advice and help from Jarome Gautreaux, Rick Sizemore, Laura Hinson, and finally my neighbor, Charlie Cork who assisted us with the motion in limine.