San Jose Plaintiff Gives Jury Headache But Gets Nothing For His
April 2017, Michael Cody represented an 84-year-old client who turned left in front of the plaintiff in a trial in San Jose, CA. Plaintiff was a 54-year old Pakastani immigrant who had worked as an auto mechanic before severing multiple fingers in a saw accident in his backyard 4 years before the accident from which he had been rendered totally disabled. Plaintiff claimed to have uncurable headaches since the day of the accident, in addition to neck and back injuries.
Plaintiff underwent extensive treatment for his claimed headaches before being referred by his attorney to a neurologist who diagnosed him with occipital neuralgia, a distinct type of headache characterized by piercing, throbbing, or electric-shock-like chronic pain in the upper neck, back of the head, and behind the ears, usually on one side of the head. Plaintiff’s doctor testified that chronic injury to the occipital nerve made it likely that Plaintiff would continue to suffer from these headaches for the rest of his life. Plaintiff also claimed that he would never be able to work again because of the headaches, despite the fact that he was already totally disabled.
The defense presented a neurologist who challenged Plaintiff’s doctor’s diagnosis and prognosis, pointing out that over a year span plaintiff described his headache symptoms in terms that that contradicted the symptoms of occipital neuralgia – a fact his doctor ultimately conceded on cross-examination.
The parties ultimately stipulated that the reasonable value of the medical treatment Plaintiff had received for injuries he claimed to have sustained in the accident was $8,000; the defense did not concede that all such treatment was reasonable. Before trial, the defense had made offers of $35,000 and later $45,000 to settle, both of which were resoundingly rejected. Plaintiff’s last demand before trial was $125,000.
At trial, Plaintiff asked the jury for $450,000 for past and future medical bills and for past and future pain and suffering. Michael argued that the only medical treatment that was reasonable and necessary was a visit to the ER, x-rays of his head and neck and 6 visits of physical therapy at a total cost of $1,500. The jury deliberated for 1.5 hours before returning a verdict in favor of plaintiff for $1,500 – exactly what the defense argued the medical bills were. There was no award for any past or future pain and suffering.
Because defendant had made a 998 Offer much higher than the verdict, the defense was entitled to recover costs, including expert costs, which totaled over $50,000. Because plaintiff was uncollectible, Michael convinced plaintiff to walk away with nothing, waive all rights to appeal and file a dismissal of the case without the entry of judgment.