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Passenger Claimed Brain Injury From Broadside Crash

verdicts-and-settlements-article



Goodwin v. Eddings



$240,000 Settlement

Date of Verdict: Dec. 12.

Court and Case No.: C.P. Bucks No. 2017-01812.



Type of Action: Motor vehicle.

Injuries: Head, concussion.

Plaintiffs Counsel: Anthony J. Baratta, Baratta, Russell & Baratta.

Plaintiffs Expert: George C. Newman, neurology, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel: Victor M. Verbeke, Law Office of Lester G. Weinraub. Plymouth Meeting.

Defense Experts: Lee J. Harris, neurology, Abington; Victor J. Malatesta, neuropsychology; West Chester.

Comment:

On March 22, 2013, plaintiff Robin Goodwin, 54, a bartender, was a front-seat passenger of a car that was traveling on Juniper Street, toward its intersection with Ninth Street, in Quakertown. As the car entered the intersection, its passenger side was struck by the front of a car that was being driven by John Eddings, who was traveling on Ninth Street and drove through a stop sign. Goodwin claimed injuries to her head. Eddings died of unrelated causes following the accident.

Goodwin sued Eddings' estate, alleging that he was negligent in the operation of a vehicle. Goodwin also sued her own carrier, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., seeking to recover her $300,000 underinsured-motorist policy.

Before having retained an attorney, Goodwin signed a document releasing any and all claims against the tortfeasor's insurer, in exchange for $940. Her attorney later negotiated a superseding settlement. The tortfeasor's insurer agreed to instead pay $75,000, from a policy that provide $100,000 of coverage. The matter proceeded against Nationwide.

Upon impact, Goodwin hit her head against the sedan's front windshield. She was taken by ambulance to an emergency room where she received seven stitches to her lacerated forehead. She was then released.

Two days later, Goodwin returned to the emergency room with complaints of headaches, a numb feeling in her head, symptoms of dizziness, feeling lethargic with nausea and an elevated blood pressure. Goodwin was examined, given pain medication and released.

On March 27, she presented to her primary care physician with complaints of headache, neck pain and an open wound of the scalp. Her doctor issued a note that she could not return to work until at least April 11. Goodwin visited her physician two more times, through April 25, with further complaints of ongoing headaches and memory problems.

On April 30, Goodwin was evaluated by a neurologist. She rated her headache at that time as a 10 out of 10 and that it was associated with sensitivity to light and sounds. She had disturbed sleep and complained that her memory was poor. Goodwin was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, a mild traumatic brain injury and pre-senile depression.

Between April 2013 and August 2015, Goodwin consulted with a neurologist and a neuropsychologist. After that time, Goodwin continued to have regular visits with her neurologist and family doctor to monitor her headache symptoms and medication. Her headache medication was adjusted over the years.

In their respective reports, Goodwin's experts causally related her injuries and treatment to the accident. The experts determined that Goodwin suffered permanent injuries.

Goodwin alleged that she continues to experience headaches and exhaustion. She also alleged that she stopped bartending because she could not remember how to make drinks. Additionally, she withdrew from her friends. According to Goodwin, she also stopped caring for the several rental properties that she owned, as she was no longer able to make repairs to the properties herself. She had to ask other people to do the repairs, and eventually she had to sell the properties because she could no longer care for them.

Goodwin sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

In his report, the defense's expert in neurology determined that at most, Goodwin suffered a minor concussion; however, the expert questioned even that diagnosis, since she did not lose consciousness or suffer any altered awareness that had been recorded in the emergency-room records. The expert concluded that Goodwin's ongoing symptoms were undoubtedly related to her pre-morbid psychological factors. Prior to the accident, Goodwin had a history consistent with ADHD and reading difficulties. She had prior depression and anxiety as well as fatigue and hypertension.

In his report, the defense's expert in neuropsychology, who examined Goodwin, determined that the evaluation provided no clear or consistent evidence that Goodwin was experiencing any neurocognitive issues that could be related to any injuries sustained in accident. The expert attributed the isolated areas of mild deficiency seen in testing to Goodwin's ADHD and general health status, as she had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, and emotional/situational factors.

According to the expert, Goodwin likely suffered a mild concussion whose symptoms would have fully resolved within a week to a few months. The expert found that the accident likely resulted in temporary exacerbation of her pre-existing depression and anxiety symptoms.

Goodwin's counsel noted that, prior to the accident, the plaintiff had never complained of headaches, dizziness, vision difficulties or memory difficulties.

The parties negotiated a pretrial settlement. Nationwide agreed to pay $165,000, from an underinsured motorist policy that provided $300,000 of coverage. Combined with the settlement with the tortfeasor, Goodwin received a total amount of $240,000.

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's calls for comment.

—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication