Pennsylvania: Commercial Motor Vehicle―Defense Verdict in Montgomery County
December 20, 2017

Franchesca Rodriquez DeJesus v. Fowlds Brothers Trucking, et al., C.P. Montgomery 2016-09541

On Oct. 14, 2015, plaintiff Franchesca Rodriguez Dejesus, 25, a custodian, was driving a sedan on Interstate 76 in Philadelphia. Her father was a front-seat passenger. Intending to merge onto U.S. Route 1, toward her right, Dejesus was in the right lane of the highway. To her left, in the middle lane, was a tractor-trailer, which sideswiped her on the driver’s side. She claimed injuries to her neck and left shoulder.

Dejesus sued the tractor-trailer driver, Lauri Hackett, and her employer, Dakotaland Transportation Inc., alleging negligence in the operation of a vehicle. Fowlds Brothers Trucking Inc. was improperly named as a defendant and was dismissed.

Rawle & Henderson LLP represented defendants Lauri Hackett and Dakotaland Transportation in this matter.

During court-mandated arbitration, Dejesus was determined to receive $65,000, which Hackett and Dakotaland Transportation rejected.

At trial, Dejesus asserted that she had stopped her car before making the right turn when the tractor-trailer, which was also turning, entered her lane and sideswiped the driver’s side of her sedan. Hackett and her employer maintained that Dejesus was not stopped as she alleged, and it was she who caused the accident. Counsel noted that Dejesus had testified that she was late for work at the time of the accident and counsel argued that she was likely speeding to get to work, took the right turn too quickly, and entered Hackett’s lane of travel, striking the tractor-trailer.

Four days after the accident, Dejesus, complaining of neck pain, presented to an emergency room, where she was examined and released. On Oct. 21, Dejesus, complaining of neck and low-back pain, presented to a chiropractor, with whom she treated for four-and-a-half months. She was diagnosed with strains and sprains of her cervical and lumbar spine. Treatment included massage and spinal manipulation. Her back complaints resolved during treatment.

Following treatment, Dejesus continued to experience neck pain and radicular pain into her left (non-dominant) shoulder. She began treating with an orthopedic surgeon and a pain-management specialist, who administered a painkilling injection to her cervical spine. After MRIs and EMGs, Dejesus was diagnosed with bulging at cervical intervertebral discs C5-6 and C6-7, left-sided radiculopathy stemming from C6-7, and tendinitis in the left shoulder. Dejesus’ orthopedic surgeon causally related her injuries and treatment to the accident, and opined that her bulging and radiculopathy were permanent.

Dejesus testified that her continued neck and shoulder pain affect her ability to interact with her children, whom she has trouble lifting. She also has difficulty performing household tasks, such as laundry and grocery shopping, and engaging in social activities, such as dancing. She sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

Hackett’s expert in orthopedic surgery, who examined Dejesus, testified that she had cervical strain and sprain and left shoulder tendinitis from the accident, and that she continued to have restricted cervical and shoulder range of motion, and restricted use of her left arm. Hackett’s expert in radiology opined that her MRI and EMG showed pre-existing chronic issues, and nothing traumatic in nature.

The jury rendered a defense verdict. This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs and defense counsel.

Copyright 2017. ALM Media Properties, LLC.

Dejesus v. Fowlds Brothers
Trucking – Defense Verdict
Date of Verdict: Oct. 17.
Court and Case No.: C.P. Montgomery 2016-09541.
Judge: Steven C. Tolliver.
Type of Action: Motor vehicle.
Injuries: Neck and back pain.
Plaintiffs Counsel: John L. Aris, Lowenthal & Abrams, Bala Cynwyd.
Defense Counsel: Sonia Di Valerio, Rawle & Henderson, Philadelphia.
Plaintiffs Expert: Robert Ranelle, orthopedic surgery, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Defense Expert: Andrew Collier, orthopedic surgery, Philadelphia; Steven Edell, radiology, Wilmington, Delaware.

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