Court Upholds Summary Judgment in Nayith Cantillo v. Veronica Lizano-Valerio – Dec 20, 2023

Nayith Cantillo v. Veronica Lizano-Valerio

Docket No. A-2317-21

Decided December 20, 2023

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided plaintiff’s appeal from a Law Division order granting summary judgment to defendant and dismissing plaintiff’s complaint, as well as a March 2022 order denying plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of that order.

In July 2018, plaintiff and defendant were involved in a motor vehicle accident. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was insured under an automobile policy that included the limitation on lawsuit election, known as the “verbal threshold” of the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act (AICRA), N.J.S.A. 39:6A-1 to 35.

In July 2020, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant alleging that she suffered permanent personal injuries as a result of the accident. During an independent medical examination conducted in August 2021, plaintiff reported he had completed all active treatment for orthopedic symptoms related to the accident and reported he was “all better.” After the examination, the doctor opined that plaintiff had sustained “mild soft tissue injury (sprain/strain) of the cervical spine and lumbar spine” in the car accident and those conditions subsequently resolved completely, with no permanent injury.

In November 2021, at the conclusion of discovery, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff failed to meet the verbal threshold standard as required by N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8(a). Two days before the return date of the motion, plaintiff’s counsel requested a one-cycle adjournment, which was granted, but then filed opposition to the motion out of time. Plaintiff’s counsel attached a physician’s certification dated December 13, 2019 to his opposition, which had not been produced to defendant in discovery. The certification did not append the chiropractor’s narrative report or any other supporting documentation.

After conducting oral argument and considering the parties’ arguments, the trial court concluded that plaintiff’s failure to timely produce the certification had irremediably prejudiced defendant and there were no genuine issues of material fact in dispute. As a result, defendant’s motion for summary judgment was granted. Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration, contending that he failed to raise an estoppel issue during the summary judgment motion. Plaintiff asserted that since an arbitration date had been set, defendant should have been equitably estopped from moving to dismiss the complaint. The trial court then denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgement. Plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that: 1. Summary judgment should have been denied because he met the verbal threshold as demonstrated in the MRI reports showing herniated discs at the lumbar and cervical areas; and 2. The trial court erred in denying his motion for reconsideration because defendant should have been estopped from seeking dismissal of the complaint.

After considering all arguments and evidence contained in the record, including the police accident report, the physician’s narrative report and the MRI reports after plaintiff’s motion to supplement the record was granted, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by barring plaintiff’s physician’s certification. The court concluded that the trial judge correctly determined there were no genuine issues of material fact and that plaintiff’s complaint failed to produce evidence of a permanent injury, which he was required to produce to meet the verbal threshold. The court also noted that the trial judge correctly denied plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration because she did not dismiss the complaint for failure to provide the certification; rather, she disregarded the certification because it had not been produced in discovery.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to personal injury lawsuits as the result of a motor vehicle accident. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of either party in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.

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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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