Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Jury’s Damages Verdict Related to Disputed Medical Treatment

In this case, Giuseppina DiFranco was driving in stop-and-go traffic when her car was struck from behind by the car driven by Constance Kusar. The DiFranco car then hit the car in front of her making her knee strike the dashboard and jerking her back and forth.

Right after the crash, DiFranco said she had neck, back and arm pain and was taken by ambulance to Glen Oaks Hospital in Glendale Heights, Ill.

Over the next months, she was treated for tenderness at the lower back and right pelvis. She reported moderate pain; the treating physician concluded that she had a cervical strain, arm strain, forearm strain and back strain. The doctor recommended physical therapy and pain relievers. After months of physical therapy and other treatment, DiFranco was diagnosed after an electromyogram with a pinched nerve in her cervical area related to the crash of June 9, 2011.

In August 2012, DiFranco had an MRI that showed “multiple abnormalities of the cervical spine.” The treating physician referred DiFranco to a bone specialist who prescribed specialized physical therapy.

In total, she was billed $29,331.88 for her medical care. She filed a lawsuit against Kusar to cover her medical bills plus pain and suffering and the loss of normal life.

At trial, an expert witness for the defendant testified that DiFranco had documented complaints of cervical, shoulder and arm pain dating back to 2003, when she was diagnosed with “cervical brachial syndrome, brachial neuralgia, myofascial pain and cervical region pain.”

In addition, DiFranco had also repeatedly complained of shoulder pain, numbness, and tingling in her right arm and hand between 2009 and June 9, 2011, which was the date of this incident. The testifying medical expert for the defendant said that when DiFranco was examined, “There was no evidence of tenderness or spasm or significant restricted motion. There was no evidence of contusion.”  The doctor testified that he did not find that the treatments she received were necessary.

At the conclusion of the jury trial, the jury found for DiFranco but awarded her only $1,000 for medical care and nothing for pain or loss of normal life. DiFranco appealed, arguing that the jury’s verdict ignored “proven elements of damages.” DiFranco claimed that the expert physician for the defendant had testified that she sustained an “objective injury” caused by the collision and received reasonable and necessary treatment in the emergency room, totaling $3,742.75 and “necessary and reasonable” treatment from another doctor totaling $15,770.88, both proven elements of damages.

The Illinois Appellate Court disagreed with the DiFranco argument on the medical expenses, emphasizing that the issues of whether DiFranco’s injury was caused by the crash and whether the treatment she received was “necessary” were both in dispute.

The appeals panel rejected the contention that there were “proven damages” that the jury ignored. In addition, the appellate court noted that “the mere fact that the verdict is less than the claimed damages does not necessarily mean the award is inadequate . . . since the jury is free to determine the credibility of the witnesses and to assess the weight accorded to their testimony.”

Furthermore, the appeals panel stated that based on testimony at the trial, including DiFranco’s failure to mention her history of right arm pain at the emergency room, the jury could conclude that DiFranco lacked credibility. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision entering judgment of the jury in the total amount of $1,000.

DiFranco v. Kusar, 2017 IL App (1st) 160533.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury lawsuits, automobile accident cases, truck accident cases, bicycle accident cases, pedestrian injury lawsuits and motorcycle accident lawsuits for individuals, families and the loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Glendale Heights, Blue Island, South Holland, Calumet City, LaGrange, Hinsdale, Rolling Meadows, Elk Grove Village, Evanston, Elmhurst, Wheeling, Buffalo Grove, Chicago (Marquette Park, Archer Heights, Polish Village, Canaryville, Gresham, Beverly, Morgan Park, Riverdale, Pullman, Englewood, Bronzeville, Oakland, Kenwood), Clarendon Hills and Burr Ridge, Ill.

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