News from Around the State: Trials and Verdicts

WDC Journal Edition: Spring 2022

Amber R. Knorn v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., et al.

Brown County Case No. 20-CV-186

December 20-21, 2021

Facts: A motor vehicle accident occurred on January 30, 2018, at the intersection of Lombardi Avenue and Ridge Road in Green Bay. 17-year-old Joe Carlson made a left turn in front of Plaintiff Amber Knorn who was travelling through the intersection and had the right-of-way on a green light. Photographs showed a significant front-end impact.

Although ambulatory at the scene and complaining only of a wrist injury, the 26-year-old plaintiff developed neck, back, and knee pain. She initially treated with a chiropractor (total 1.5 years for neck and back) and ten months after the accident sought an orthopedic consult for ongoing right knee pain. Ultimately, Dr. Harold Schock, MD diagnosed plaintiff with a torn meniscus and performed arthroscopic surgery to repair same eleven months after the accident. Her condition improved, but the pain continued. A subsequent re-tearing of the meniscus was diagnosed, and Dr. Schock performed a second arthroscopic surgery on the knee. Plaintiff continued to complain of pain after the second surgery and underwent various injection therapies with some limited success.

Issues for Trial: The parties stipulated to past medical bills of $72,755.15. The parties also stipulated to liability with no contributory negligence. State Farm’s insured, Joe Carlson, and his father Dan Carlson (license sponsorship) were dismissed from the case. State’s Farm’s total available policy limit was $1.25 million.

At Trial: Dr. Schock testified that plaintiff’s knee pain was permanent and would deteriorate. He opined that plaintiff would need a total knee replacement in 25 to 30 years. Claimed future medical bills were $72,932.50 (including injections and the knee replacement surgery).

Defense Medical Expert Dr. Thomas Viehe, MD agreed that the accident caused the knee injury and past surgeries, but noted her ongoing pain was “unexplained” due to there being no objective mechanical issue remaining in the knee. He also opined that the future total knee replacement was speculative and that, in effect, only about 15% of her meniscus was removed, leaving a very thick supporting area still present. Plaintiff also had no signs of arthritis in the knee at this point, which Dr. Schock conceded on cross-examination. Defense further noted that both treater and defense doctor agree she should not have to cut short her career as a cosmetologist (on her feet all day). Plaintiff continued to perform home maintenance work, jet ski, snowmobile, and ride her bike. She was previously a runner, and her main complaint was that she could not do so any longer.

Plaintiff’s Final Pre-Trial Demand: Plaintiff's last formal demand at mediation was $735,000.

Defendant’s Final Pre-Trial Offer: State Farm's last offer prior to trial was $220,000.

Verdict: The jury awarded the stipulated past medical bills of $72,755.15, $25,000 in future medical bills (approximately three rounds of injections, but not the future total knee replacement), $100,000 in past pain and suffering, and $75,000 in future pain and suffering, for a total verdict of $272,755.15.

For more information, please contact Heather L. Nelson at hnelson@eversonlaw.com.

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Steven M. Cherne, et al. v. Todd M. Wollenzien, et al.

Sheboygan County Case No. 19-CV-535

November 15, 2021

Facts: On October 14, 2016, Plaintiff Steven Cherne was traveling westbound on County Highway W when a vehicle driven by Defendant Todd Wollenzien slowed in front of him to execute a left turn. Plaintiff crossed the double yellow line to pass defendant, lost control of his vehicle, hit nearby rail-road tracks, became airborne, and landed in a ditch. Plaintiff sustained severe back injuries resulting in several surgeries and a diagnosis of failed back syndrome.

Issues for Trial: Prior to trial, the parties stipulated to damages at the policy limits. The sole issue for trial was liability.

At Trial: There were only two witnesses: plaintiff and defendant. The plaintiff testified that he never saw a turn signal from defendant and thought that he was slowing down for a yield sign. He further testified that he crossed the double yellow line at approximately 45 miles per hour to pass defendant and accelerated as he approached him. According to plaintiff, he was partially past defendant’s vehicle when he suddenly turned left. This caused plaintiff to make a corrective measure to avoid t-boning defendant and led to the accident.

Defendant, a commercial truck driver, testified that he drives his personal vehicle just as carefully as he drives his work truck. He testified that he turned his blinker on and slowed to a reasonable speed prior to turning. He was unaware of any vehicle behind him until plaintiff was nearly broadside with him.

Verdict: After 45 minutes of deliberation the jury returned a verdict that plaintiff was 90% negligent and defendant was 10% negligent.

For more information, please contact Erik Pless at epless@eversonlaw.com.

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Patricia Adele Boudreau, et al. v. Stephen G. Counard, et al.

Marinette County Case No. 18-CV-114

November 9-11, 2021 

Facts: On June 19, 2015, Plaintiff Patricia Boudreau—a Canadian citizen employed as a chiropractor—was traveling through Marinette when she was rear-ended by Defendant Stephen Counard. Plaintiff did not immediately seek medical treatment but began treatment a few weeks later in Vancouver and reported significant neck, back, and shoulder pain. Her shoulder pain was her primary concern, and she would eventually be diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear which required surgery. In addition to the medical bills that were incurred, Ms. Boudreau also made a significant wage loss claim.

Issues for Trial: The parties stipulated to liability prior to trial. The only issue for trial was damages.

At Trial: Plaintiff testified to her injuries and the accident itself. Her treating physician also testified via video deposition. He opined that the shoulder injury was the result of a traumatic event and not the result of any sort of degenerative condition. The defense had an IME but elected not to play the video deposition. Because plaintiff’s treatment all occurred in Canada, the issue of converting her medical bills from Canadian dollars into American dollars had to be addressed.

Figures from the Canadian government were used to calculate past and future medical bills. The plaintiff blurted out on direct examination that her medical care was “free.” At this point the collateral source rule was violated, so plaintiff argued that she “may” have to repay some of the bills out of the verdict and that the shoulder surgery “may not be covered.”

Verdict: Despite the parties asking for damages in American dollars, the jury—for reasons that were not clear—rendered a verdict in Canadian dollars. The Honorable Judge James Morrison instructed the jury to go back and recalculate the amount in American dollars. While the jury was recalculating the damages, the parties stipulated to damages of $141,600 USD, significantly less than the final pre-suit offer.

For more information, please contact Erik Pless at epless@eversonlaw.com.

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Jeffrey S. Mahoney, et al. v. The Cincinnati Ins. Co., et al.

Sauk County Case No. 18-CV-292

October 11-13, 2021

Facts: Defendants’ dump truck rear-ended the plaintiff’s SUV on Highway 12. Defendants asserted that an unidentified driver caused the accident by cutting in front of plaintiff’s vehicle, slamming on his brakes, and then making an unexpected U-turn in the middle of the highway. Plaintiff denied the unidentified driver’s actions were a cause of the accident. Plaintiff driver claims he sustained injuries to his neck and back in the accident rendering him completely disabled.

Issues for Trial: Liability and damages were contested.

At Trial: Plaintiff called Dr. Sara Christenson Holz, MD and Kevin Blau, DC to support his disability claim. Defense called Dr. Morris Marc Soriano, MD who performed an IME. Plaintiff also called a vocational expert, Leslie Goldsmith, to support his complete loss of earning capacity claim. The defense called vocational expert John Meltzer. An independent witness failed to comply with a trial subpoena served by the defense, so his discovery deposition transcript was read into the record which supported the defense position regarding the accident facts and the actions of the unidentified driver.

During closing arguments, plaintiff asked the jury to award approximately $2.4 million.

The jury returned a verdict of only $35,000 and assigned only 10% of the causal negligence to defendants (the other 90% was assigned to the unidentified driver).

Plaintiff’s Final Pre-Trial Demand: $1.1 million.

Defendant’s Final Pre-Trial Offer: Defendants offered $127,000 at mediation, which was rejected. After mediation, defendants served a statutory offer to allow judgment for $127,000. Just before trial, defendants increased their settlement offer to $150,000, which was rejected.

Verdict: After verdict, plaintiff agreed to waive the $3,500 judgment against defendants and waive appeal rights in exchange for defendants’ waiver of costs arising from their statutory offer to allow judgment.

For more information, contact Paul D. Curtis at pcurtis@axley.com.