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Jury returns verdict of $30K more than limits $130,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//April 8, 2019

Jury returns verdict of $30K more than limits $130,000 Verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//April 8, 2019

Linda Neely, the plaintiff in this case, is a 64-year-old, life-long resident of Chesterfield County. She is a widow who lives with her adult son. She spent 32 years as a special education teacher before her retirement. At the time of the collision Mrs. Neely was tremendously active in her church and spent her weekends transporting dogs from “kill shelters” in the south to “no kill shelters” in the north. She also regularly filled in as a substitute teacher at Chesterfield County’s elementary schools.

On July 28, 2016, Mrs. Neely was hit head-on at a high rate of speed while traveling northbound on Jefferson Davis Highway. Her son, who was in the passenger seat of her vehicle at the time of the crash, was also injured in the collision. His case (tried previously) resulted in a $25,000 verdict in Chesterfield County General District Court. Liability in the case was admitted and the defendant, who did not participate in discovery, did not appear at trial.

The plaintiff was transported from the scene by ambulance and taken to Southside Regional Hospital to address complaints of severe right-sided chest, neck, and jaw pain. She was discharged from the emergency department with a suspected “chest contusion.” She had several follow up appointments with her primary care physician before simply waiting for her injuries to heal.

Unfortunately, her pain did not resolve. One year following the collision she went to a TMJ specialist to address ongoing jaw pain. She was then referred to pain management and saw Dr. Hassan Zakaria at Interventional Pain and Spine Specialists two times. Dr. Zakaria was the only expert witness called to testify at trial. He confirmed that Mrs. Neely had a healed sternum fracture (sustained in the collision) and diagnosed her with costochondritis – painful inflammation of her costochondral junctions between the ribs and the sternum.

At trial, Mrs. Neely was still suffering from pain in her chest, shoulder and jaw. She testified that she has not had a single pain-free day since the collision. Among other things, her pain affects sleeping, eating, driving, gardening, going to church, volunteering with animal rescues, substitute teaching, and prevents her from picking up her two grandchildren. The constant stress caused by daily pain resulted in increased anxiety and depression.

To dispute Mrs. Neely’s claims, the defense argued that she was exaggerating the severity of her injuries, pointed to the more than one year gap in her treatment, cited her extremely limited number of medical appointments, and questioned the absence of testimony from Ms. Neely’s other treating physicians.

Suit was filed for $100,000, the total amount of available insurance coverage, and that amount was requested by the plaintiff in both opening and closing arguments. Mrs. Neely’s special damages totaled $17,821.64. After 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict for $130,000.

[19-T-035]

Type of action: Personal Injury

Injuries alleged: Fractured sternum with costochondritis

Name of case: Linda Neely v. Nekeshia Barber

Court: Chesterfield Circuit Court

Case no.: CL18-1497

Tried before: Jury

Name of judge: Judge Edward A. Robbins Jr.

Demand: Liability tender of $50,000 to allow negotiations with UIM carrier

Offer: $22,210

Verdict or settlement: Verdict

Amount: $130,000

Attorney for plaintiff: Christopher J. Toepp, Richmond

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