Pennsylvania: Favorable Verdict in Ruby Parks v. GW Construction and Volodymyr Gakh, PCCP
by Daniel J. Rucket
Ruby Parks v. GW Construction and Volodymyr Gakh, PCCP, November Term, 2011, No. 1248
On November 5, 2011, 59-year-old Ruby Parks was walking down 27th Street in North Philadelphia. As she approached Girard Avenue, the light turned green and, without looking in either direction to see if any vehicles were coming, she started to cross Girard Avenue. At the same time, a van driven by Volodymyr Gakh was making a left turn from 27th Street onto Girard Avenue. The van clipped Ms. Parks from behind as she crossed the street, knocking her to the ground. She complained immediately of pain in her legs. An ambulance took her to Hahnemann Hospital, where she was treated for a nondisplaced fracture of her ankle. Her ankle was placed in a cast. She had no complaints of neck or back pain at the time of the accident or in the hospital. Ms. Parks claims that she started feeling pain in her neck and back later that evening. On November 8, she began treating with a chiropractic and a physical therapy group. She was treated by this group for five and a half months for neck and back pain. She had a MRI of her neck which revealed two herniated discs. She had a MRI of her back which revealed four herniated discs. She saw an orthopedic surgeon twice, who noted that the herniated discs were caused by this accident. He offered her epidural injections, which she declined. Over four months after being discharged from therapy, Ms. Parks had an EMG and nerve conduction study of her lumbar spine that purportedly showed nerve damage at two of the four herniated disc levels. She then had an EMG of her cervical spine that purportedly showed nerve damage at both herniated disc levels.
At the time of the accident, Ms. Parks was working several days a week cleaning offices and homes. She was paid cash for this work. She lived in a group home in which she had her own room and shared a kitchen and bathroom with five other people.
Ms. Parks claimed that she suffered from neck and back pain all the time. On bad days, she took Tylenol for the pain. She also claimed that it took her over twice as long to perform activities of daily living, such as cooking and cleaning.
The case was prepared by Rawle & Henderson partner, Catherine N. Walto. Due to Ms. Walto's trial schedule, the case was defended at trial by Daniel J. Rucket. Plaintiff’s counsel demanded the defendant’s $300,000 insurance policy limits. The defendants offered $100,000 to settle. The case was tried before Judge Ricardo Jackson of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas from March 25, 2013 through March 27, 2013. The defendants admitted negligence, but challenged causation for the alleged injuries. Ms. Parks’ counsel presented testimony from the orthopedic surgeon, by videotape deposition, and the EMG physician, who appeared live at trial. He also presented the testimony of economist Andrew Verzilli that Ms. Parks sustained a loss of household services of $72,000. He did not present a wage loss claim. The defendants presented the videotape testimony of John Duda, M.D., who testified that the herniated discs were pre-existing, were not caused by this accident, and were not causing the pain claimed by Ms. Parks based on physical examinations performed by her own doctors. The jury spent three hours deliberating and returned a verdict for $45,000.
Daniel J. Rucket concentrates his practice in general casualty litigation, including premises, motor vehicle, construction, product liability, and catastrophic injury. Dan graduated from the William and Mary Law School in 1993 and subsequently clerked for the Honorable Albert R. Subers in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. Mr. Rucket is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania and the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania. He has been selected as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since 2010. He was selected as a Pennsylvania Rising Star in 2005, 2006 and 2007.