ORO Is Successful in Damages Only Trial: 15 Million Dollar Demand Results in 15 Thousand Dollar Jury Verdict

Jury verdict: January 19, 2023, Orange County, Judge Sciortino
Defense Counsel: O'Connor Redd Orlando LLP by Joseph T. Redd and Anthony Ruggeri.

In the case of Hichak v. Grand Plumbing, plaintiff, age 38, following a hit in the rear accident, underwent a two level disc replacement surgery, followed by a three level cervical and subsequent implantation of a permanent spinal stimulator. Plaintiff claimed failed neck syndrome and a significant reduction in quality of life. Pre-trial, plaintiff's attorney, Andrew Finkelstein of Finkelstein and Partners presented a non-negotiable demand of 10 million dollars. A subsequent offer was met with an increased demand.

This was an aggravation and exacerbation case, with plaintiff downplaying the significance of prior treatment. On MRI, a large osteophyte complex with herniation was found at the C6 - C7 level. Plaintiff's expert, Dr. Oppenheim, conceded that the osteophyte complex and herniation pre-existed, but that the "crash" triggered/activated symptoms.

To mitigate claims of ongoing disability, defense counsel offered normal IMEs, surveillance video and social media postings. Distinctions were drawn by the defense between subjective "symptoms" of pain and verifiable objective "signs." The defense argued (with the aid of bio-mechanical and neurosurgeon experts) that the tap caused a classic case of whiplash (WAD), which would have resolved itself over time, and that surgery was not a treatment option for whiplash. Defense counsel argued that the treating surgeon (not called by plaintiff) ordered an MRI which revealed a pre-existing problem at C6 - C7 given the strange/non physiologic, constellation of ever changing symptoms. The defense stressed to the jury that surgical intervention was warranted REGARDLESS of the temporary whiplash injury sustained, and that the MRI simply revealed the preexisting condition.

On summation, the defense argued that while there was real question about a "significant limitation" as it pertained ONLY to the temporary whiplash condition, it did not pertain to the underlying C6-C7 osteophyte disc complex. The jury found for plaintiff on this one question of "serious injury" but not on the other two categories of "serious injury" alleged. The jury chose to award the plaintiff 15 thousand dollars for the temporary whiplash condition, and not the 15 million dollars demanded by counsel.