Glenn Hughes v. Jason Worthington: Determined Whether Injuries Were Permanent and Causally Related to the Accident
Docket No. A-0854-21
Decided December 30, 2022
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In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided plaintiff’s appeal from an order dismissing his personal injury complaint with prejudice.
In October 2017, plaintiff rear-ended defendant’s vehicle in an automobile accident. Plaintiff eventually filed suit seeking damages for personal injuries sustained as a result of the accident. Defendant stipulated liability. Since defendant did so, the only issue at trial was whether plaintiff’s injuries were permanent and causally related to the accident. Plaintiff contended that due to the accident, he had restricted range of motion in his neck and pain whenever he turned his head.
Plaintiff had an expert testify on his behalf. The expert/doctor testified that plaintiff lost range of motion in his neck as a result of the accident. He further testified an MRI taken two months after the accident supported his diagnosis plaintiff suffered an aggravation of pre-existing degenerative disc disease. The doctor stated that the degenerative disc disease was just there until something happened to activate it.
On cross-examination, the doctor conceded that the degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine pre-dated the accident, and he could not observe an aggravation of this pre-existing condition on plaintiff’s MRI. He also admitted his opinion concerning the aggravation of degenerative disc disease was derived from plaintiff telling him he was asymptomatic before the accident, but that he experienced decreased range of motion in his neck following the accident. The doctor also could not determine if the findings on the plaintiff’s MRI were acute or chronic, and he agreed that range of motion testing does have a subjective component.
Defendant then moved for a directed verdict, arguing that plaintiff failed to demonstrate with objective, credible medical evidence that he suffered a permanent injury as a result of the accident. The trial court determined, giving plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences, that no reasonable juror could find for the plaintiff because the doctor formed his opinion based on plaintiff’s subjective complaints concerning the decreased range of motion and lack of similar complaints prior to the accident. As a result, the trial court held that the doctor improperly relied on subjective evidence and granted defendant’s motion for a directed verdict. Plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, plaintiff contended the trial court erred in granting defendant’s motion for a directed verdict because sufficient, objective medical evidence was presented to show he sustained a permanent injury since his subjective complaint (restricted range of motion) was sufficient to support the doctor’s opinion that there was a permanent injury in this case. The Appellate Court was unpersuaded by this argument and was satisfied that the trial court properly granted the directed verdict. The court noted that in order to avoid a directed verdict, plaintiff was required to prove through expert testimony there was objective clinical evidence his injuries were permanent and causally related to the automobile accident. The doctor’s testimony concerning permanency was based solely on plaintiff’s subjective claims concerning diminished range of motion and was not based on the requisite objective proofs required under case law. Thus, because the doctor’s testimony was not based on credible, objective evidence obtained from accepted diagnostic tests, it was insufficient to vault the threshold under N.J.S.A. 39:6a-8(a). The trial court’s decision was affirmed.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed matter pertaining to personal injuries sustained as a 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 the plaintiff 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.