A Social Security cost-of-living adjustment could have a small but positive impact on retirement planning.
A Clay County jury awarded a Kansas City woman $7,500 for injuries suffered in a traffic crash, far short of the $650,000 she sought before trial.
Elizabeth St. Clair, 55, was driving east on Englewood Road, near North Oak Trafficway, in Kansas City when defendant Kylor Greene pulled out in front of her. Although Greene stipulated during the trial that he caused the accident, St. Clair was unable to persuade the jury that her carpel tunnel injuries resulted from the crash, Greene's attorney, Wade Thomas, said.
"It was a good result for the defense," said Thomas, who works for Farmers Insurance Co., Greene's insurer.
In the trial, plaintiff's expert Dr. Allen J. Parmet suggested St. Clair's carpal tunnel syndrome was the result of blunt trauma to her wrists, caused by the force of the impact transferred from the steering wheel.
But Parmet also said she probably would have exhibited symptoms within two months of the event, Thomas said.
According to a case summary Thomas provided, St. Clair reported to an emergency room the day of the accident and complained of neck pain, but diagnostic tests were negative. She also underwent an MRI about three months after the accident, which was also negative except for some degenerative changes and osteoarthritis in her spine.
Though the plaintiff testified that the numbness and tingling in her hands started about four months after the wreck, her concerns weren't documented by her primary care physician until eight months later. A subsequent medical test verified bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.
Thomas said a juror indicated to him the jury found too many inconsistencies between St. Clair's testimony and her medical records to justify a larger verdict.
"This entire case was won on the nuts and bolts," Thomas said. "The minutia in the medical records was shown to the jury."
Eric Bartlett, St. Clair's attorney, said his client was "very credible" and consistent with her testimony that the pain started about four months after the accident.
Bartlett noted that errors are all too common in medical records.
"I had a case with a soft-tissue injury, significant gaps in treatment and nothing objective to show how the injury occurred," he said. "That's a tough case to put together."
St. Clair reported $13,945 in paid medical expenses as a result of her injuries, along with an expected $6,000 for a future pain management procedure and $400 for lost income.
Thomas said he felt the verdict was a compromise, because jurors were aware of the $14,000 in medical bills.
"Some of the jurors wanted to make her whole, and others only wanted to cover a $750 emergency room bill," he said.
Motor vehicle collision
Venue: Clay County Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 09CY-CV12119/Sept. 20, 2011
Judge: Larry Dale Harman
Plaintiffs' Expert: Dr. Allen J. Parmet, Kansas City (aerospace and occupational medicine)
Special Damages: Medical expenses $23,648 billed, $13,945 paid; $6,000 for future medical expenses; $400 for lost income
Last Pretrial Demand: $650,000
Last Pretrial Offer: $9,000
Insurer: Farmers Insurance Co.
Caption: Elizabeth and John St. Clair v. Kylor Greene
Plaintiffs' Attorney: Eric Bartlett, Von Erdmannsdorff, Mowry & Bartlett, Kansas City
Defendant's Attorney: Wade Thomas, Abbott, Davidson & Southard, Kansas City