Pennsylvania: Defense Verdict in Motor Vehicle Case of Mintscheff v Hersey, CCP, York County, PA

09/14/11

Mintscheff v. Hersey, et al., York County Court of Common Pleas, No. 2001-SU-6292-Y01

Rawle & Henderson LLP obtained a defense verdict in a rear-end passenger motor vehicle case before a jury in the York County Court of Common Pleas in York, Pennsylvania.  The jury found in favor of our client, despite the fact that negligence had been conceded prior to the commencement of trial.   More specifically, the plaintiff driver commenced a personal injury action and alleged that he sustained multiple cervical spine and lumbar spine disc herniations, with resultant pain and disability as a result of a rear-end collision with the defendant driver.  At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was a restrained driver stopped at a red light.  The defendant driver failed to stop his vehicle before it collided into the rear of plaintiff’s pickup truck.  The force of the collision, coupled with the plaintiff’s body size, caused a fracture in the steel body frame of the pickup truck’s passenger cabin which was clearly visible in post-accident photos.  The defendant admitted negligence in the operation of his vehicle, but disputed causation of plaintiff’s claimed damages.

During discovery, it was revealed that plaintiff had been involved in a similar rear-end collision prior to the subject accident.  In fact, a careful review of plaintiff’s medical records revealed that plaintiff had incurred similar injuries in both accidents.  Nevertheless, diagnostic studies that were taken after the second accident revealed injuries that had not been diagnosed following the first accident.  It was evident that plaintiff incurred new injuries as a result of the second accident.  At trial, plaintiff endeavored to relate all of his injuries to the second accident only.  This strategy proved fatal to the plaintiff’s claim, as, in the end, it revealed plaintiff’s lack of credibility.  Conveniently, one of plaintiff’s expert witnesses, who had also been plaintiff’s treating orthopedist, made no mention whatsoever of plaintiff’s first accident in any of his office notes.  When confronted on cross examination with this glaring omission, the orthopedist claimed that he “did not always need to know the whole story of a patient’s history.”  This statement alone provided a useful weapon to the defense as the firm's theme to the jury centered on the belief that the plaintiff’s “whole story” was, in fact, critical to their deliberations.  In the end, the jury agreed with the defense and returned a defense verdict, despite the concession of liability and plaintiff’s apparent objective injuries.  The court denied plaintiff’s post-trial motions.