Richelin v. Hughes
Congratulations Juan Ruiz and Aaron Eagan for obtaining a favorable verdict in Richelin v. Hughes.
The case arose out of an auto accident that occurred when defendant, Sydney Hughes, collided with the rear of Mr. Richelin’s vehicle in heavy stop-and-go trafficcausing minimal damage to his rear bumper. The defense admitted negligence prior to trial. At the scene of the accident, Mr. Richelin began complaining of neck and shoulder pain. EMTs recorded pain complaints but documented that he had normal sensation in his extremities. Mr. Richelin refused further treatment and left in his vehicle. On February 4, 2013, Mr. Richelin began treating for neck, shoulder and low back pain. Radiculopathy was ruled out and a soft tissue strain was diagnosed. Mr. Richelin treated with physical therapy to address his neck pain. A June 7, 2013 cervical MRI demonstrated bulging discs and radial tears as well as age-appropriate spurring and osteophytes. In June and again in September of 2014, Mr. Richelin presented for employment-related physicals. During both visits, he denied history of neck injury and pain. Mr. Richelin’s neck and extremities were found to be normal. In January of 2015, Mr. Richelin began treating with Dr. Nizam Razack who noted the presence of radiculopathy and diagnosed compression of the C5-6 and C6-7 nerve roots. An ACDF surgery was subsequently performed. At trial, palintiff’s counsel emphasized the absence of any pre-accident neck pain or treatment. However, on cross examination, Mr. Richelin admitted that he did not tell his doctors about a 2004 auto accident for which he received treatment for neck pain. He claimed that he denied any neck injury on the intake forms in 2014 because he could not read the question due to a language barrier. Dr. Razack, plaintiff’s only medical witness, related the 2016 surgery to injuries caused by the 2013 accident. Defense focused on the 2014 records documenting the absence of neck pain or radiculopathy. Dr. Stephen Goll and Dr. Marc Kaye both testified on behalf of the defense that Mr. Richelin’s immediate post-accident palliative care was reasonable, that Dr. Razack’s surgery had nothing to do with the accident and that the radiculopathy was caused by osteophytes compressing the nerve roots rather than acute herniation.
After a 4 day trial, the jury deliberated for 1 hour before returning a verdict awarding Mr. Richelin $20,000 in past medical expenses only. Following post-verdict reductions for PIP setoffs, the verdict will be close to zero.
Verdict Date: May 03, 2018