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Man sought $800K for aneurysm, got $25K from jury – $25,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 16, 2018

Man sought $800K for aneurysm, got $25K from jury – $25,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 16, 2018

In a moderate-impact motor vehicle negligence case, the plaintiff claimed various personal injuries. Plaintiff’s most serious injury was a basilar artery brain aneurysm that required the surgical placement of a stent. The stent then failed, causing a pontine stroke that required additional surgery. Due to the two brain surgeries, plaintiff’s medical bills alone exceeded $408,000. There was $100,000 in available liability insurance coverage and $400,000 in available UIM insurance coverage. Plaintiff claimed that the brain aneurysm was caused by the car accident.

Plaintiff called his treating neurologist to testify live at trial. Plaintiff’s neurologist opined that due to the type and size of the aneurysm (almost 20 mm) and purported lack of prior complaints of headaches or other symptoms, the aneurysm was the direct result of the trauma form the car accident. Plaintiff’s expert also testified that plaintiff suffered from intrinsically weak blood vessels of the brain and that condition was exacerbated by the trauma of the accident causing the brain aneurysm.

However, plaintiff admitted at trial that he had visited a local emergency room approximately five months prior to the car accident complaining of severe migraine headaches with symptoms of dizziness, blurred vision and photophobia. Plaintiff also told the physician assistant in the ER that this particular migraine was worse that his prior migraines. The physician assistant testified live at trial.

The defense retained a board-certified neurovascular surgeon from MCV Physicians to review plaintiff’s medical records including MRI and CT scans of the brain. The defense expert also appeared live at trial.  The defense expert testified that, based on the MRI scans of the plaintiff’s brain, there was no objective evidence that the aneurysm was caused by the car accident. Specifically, the aneurysm was large (20 mm) and, if the plaintiff’s theory were true, would have grown to this size in just a few weeks (it was discovered about three weeks post-accident).  More importantly, if the aneurysm had grown to such a size on only a few weeks, it would have caused severe swelling in the brain stem due to its location on the basilar artery. Plaintiff’s MRI scans showed almost no evidence of swelling of the brain stem. Moreover, plaintiff’s expert testified that, based on an extensive review of relevant medical literature he could not find any reported cases of a brain aneurysm resulting from a car accident unless the injuries involved partial decapitation injuries. In this case, plaintiff was able to exit his vehicle, call his family and declined medical transport at the scene.

Plaintiff requested $800,000.00 in closing arguments and the jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning its verdict of $25,000.00.


Type of action: Personal Injury – Car Accident

Injuries alleged: Basilar artery brain aneurysm resulting in a stroke requiring surgery

Name of case: Charles Zellers, Jr. v. Michael J. Beste, Admin. Of the Estate of Timothy James Tucker, Sr., et al

Court: Chesterfield Circuit Court

Case no.: CL17001787

Name of judge: Judge Steven C. McCallum

Date resolved: Sept. 27, 2018

Special damages: $408,104.34 in medical bills

Demand: $800,000.00

Verdict or settlement: Verdict

Amount: $25,000.00

Attorneys for defendant: W. Barry Montgomery and Andrew Webb, Richmond

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