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Sudden medical emergency defense presented in car, bus accident — Defense verdict

Sudden medical emergency defense presented in car, bus accident — Defense verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//May 9, 2022//

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Type of action: Auto accident involving car and bus

Injuries alleged: Soft tissue injuries to neck, back and hip; claimed partial rotator cuff tear requiring surgery

Name of case: Argichew v. Wilee

Court: Fairfax County Circuit Court

Case no.: CL-2019-6925

Tried before: Jury

Name of judge or mediator: Judge David Bernhard

Date resolved: 1/6/2022

Special damages: $78,788.95

Demand: $300,000

Offer: $10,000

Verdict or settlement: Verdict

Amount: $0 (defense)

Attorneys for defendant (and city): James M. Snyder and Randolph T. Critzer Jr., Richmond

Plaintiff’s experts: Peter Levine, M.D. (orthopedist)

Defendant’s experts: Adam Lorenzetti, M.D. (orthopedist)

Description of case: Plaintiff was a passenger on a metro bus that had stopped for loading/unloading. Mr. Wilee was traveling in the same direction as the metro bus when suddenly and without warning, he was stricken with severe dizziness and passed out. His next memory was being attended to at the scene by bystanders. During his treatment at the scene, he experienced another syncopal episode, witnessed by EMS personnel. After several days in the hospital, the only diagnosis offered was ­severe dehydration.

Plaintiff treated conservatively for soft tissue injuries and then began to complain of shoulder issues. The shoulder pain persisted and she underwent an arthroscopic procedure to address same.

The defense of the case focused on two issues: whether Mr. Wilee suffered a sudden medical emergency; and whether plaintiff’s shoulder complaints were caused by the accident or were pre-existing.

Mr. Wilee had never suffered such extreme dizziness while driving prior to the date of the accident. His morning routine on that day had been the same as any other day. His dizziness and syncope were unexpected and sudden, rendering it impossible to control his vehicle. Plaintiff argued that without a diagnosis of some definitive medical condition more severe than dehydration, Mr. Wilee did not meet the requirements for a sudden medical emergency. Additionally, if his condition was dehydration, perhaps Mr. Wilee was to blame, invalidating the defense.

Plaintiff’s treating orthopedist, Dr. Levine, testified the accident caused all shoulder-related treatment. On cross-examination, however, Dr. Levine admitted to having never seen records showing pre-accident shoulder treatment, including X-rays and injections, occurring within two months before the accident. Dr. Levine had asked plaintiff if she had ever had shoulder problems before the accident and she denied such treatment. Dr. Levine asked plaintiff’s counsel for relevant pre-accident medical records and received none.

Dr. Lorenzetti, having reviewed all pre-accident and post-accident records, found it more likely than not that plaintiff’s post-accident shoulder complaints and surgery were related to her underlying pre-existing conditions and not the accident.

The presentation of evidence spanned two days. The jury began deliberations on day two and after an hour of deliberations, asked a question as to whose burden it was to prove a sudden medical emergency defense, which had been a topic among counsel and the court repeatedly over the course of trial.

After resuming deliberations the following day and deliberating an additional four hours, the jury returned a defense verdict in favor of Mr. Wilee.

James Snyder, counsel for the defendant, provided case information.


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