Cook County Jury Verdict to Stand–So Says Illinois Appellate Court

Julie Sheridan injured her right shoulder, right knee, left arm and the back of her neck after she was involved in a three-car crash at the intersection of Ogden Avenue and River Drive in Lisle, Ill., in February 2010. After the crash, Sheridan refused an ambulance and did not receive medical treatment that day. Instead she drove 300 miles to her home in Union, Mo., and saw a doctor there for symptoms one day later.

She received pain and anti-inflammatory medication for her symptoms, which she said did not relieve her pain. An orthopedic surgeon who saw Sheridan in May 2010 tried but failed to discover her reported numbness, tingling and decreased strength.

The orthopedic surgeon testified during the trial that Sheridan had full range of motion in her neck and left shoulder, normal grip strength in her left hand, normal reflexes in her left arm and proper sensation throughout her left hand. The orthopedic surgeon could not identify the cause of her symptoms.

A muscle and nerve test conducted in June 2010 revealed that Sheridan was experiencing symptoms consistent with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, which is a condition that results from pressure or stretching in a forearm nerve that can cause finger tingling or numbness and hand weakness.

X-rays of Sheridan’s back showed she suffered from degenerative joint and disk disease in two neck vertebrae. Those conditions can remain asymptomatic until triggered by a trauma such as a three-car accident.

Sheridan also received an MRI in July 2010, which showed signs consistent with a disk herniation in her neck. During the trial, the surgeon testified that while Sheridan’s accident did not cause her degeneration, it likely could have aggravated it.

Sheridan saw a neurosurgeon after three failed steroid injections in late 2010. The doctor removed portions of the ruptured disk and fused her vertebrae in January 2011. Sheridan was cleared in late February 2011 to return to work after she reported no shoulder or hand pain. The neurosurgeon testified that Sheridan’s fusion had healed by June 2011.

During the trial, the neurosurgeon testified that Sheridan’s neck injury was causally related to her accident in February 2010. However, the doctor said her left arm nerve problem was not related.

An orthopedic surgeon who examined Sheridan’s records and testified for the defendant Alan Prince, the driver that caused that accident, said that Sheridan did suffer from degenerative disk disease but that she did not suffer a herniated disk from the accident.

‘The doctor testifying on behalf of the defendants said that had Sheridan suffered a herniated disk, she would have had immediate and severe pain. She would not have been able to drive 300 miles the following day.

At the time of the trial, Sheridan testified she no longer felt pain in her neck but still suffered from shoulder pain. She stated at trial that she takes Tylenol for her constant and severe pain but receives no relief and experiences limited neck motion, decreased arm strength and a decreased ability to guard and hold her grandchildren.

The jury entered its verdict of $1,500 for pain and suffering, $1,500 for loss of normal life, $500 for disfigurement and $30,000 for medical expenses. The attorney representing Sheridan moved for a new trial, which was granted by the trial judge on damages. Sheridan argued that the jury’s award disregarded substantial evidence of pain and suffering, ignored evidence of her disability and was not reasonably related to the harm she experienced as a result of this car crash.

On appeal of the order granting a motion for a new trial on damages, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed. The appeals panel stated that “the fact that a jury’s damage awards for both pain and suffering and loss of a normal life were ‘less than generous’ does not mean that the awards are inadequate.” The appeals panel said the jury had the opportunity to observe Sheridan during the several days at trial and judge for themselves if she was experiencing signs of severe pain that she claimed and the extent of the limitation on her range of neck motion. The appellate court stated that “we believe that there is sufficient evidence in the record from which the jury could and eventually did conclude that Sheridan’s claims of pain and disability were magnified.”

Julie Sheridan v. Alan Prince, 2015 IL App (1st) 142624-U.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident cases, truck crash cases, motorcycle accident cases and bicycle accident cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 38 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Long Grove, Lincolnshire, Lincolnwood, Matteson, Melrose Park, Blue Island, South Holland, Worth, Vernon Hills, Joliet, Elgin, Aurora, Bolingbrook, Lake Bluff and Round Lake Beach, Ill.

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