Wayne County Circuit Court
Judge Susan Hubbard
June 24, 2019
Defendants – Hewson & VanHellemont P.C.: Kelli Bennett and Amber Cervantez
Type of Action:
First Party No-Fault
- Whether Plaintiff’s stroke arose out of the subject motor vehicle.
Summary of Trial:
Plaintiff, an 83-year-old man, was claiming approximately $1,250,000.00 in medical expenses related to an ischemic stroke he allegedly suffered as the result of a June 8, 2014, hit-and-run motor vehicle accident. A majority of the medical expenses were for Irvine Head Injury, an inpatient rehabilitation and residential facility.
At trial, Plaintiff relied on the testimony of Dr. David Frecker, an expert neurologist from California, and Dr. Peter Gumma, Plaintiff’s treating physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor. Dr. Gumma opined that the stroke was caused by the motor vehicle accident but ultimately deferred the etiology to a neurologist. Dr. Frecker acknowledged that it is “very rare” for a motor vehicle accident to cause an ischemic stroke. Nevertheless, he opined that the fear or perceived fear from the accident along with being in a bad neighborhood caused Plaintiff’s blood to thicken, which then led to a cascade of events including a major stroke.
At trial, State Farm relied on the earliest version of the accident in the EMS records, which suggested Plaintiff hit a median. Randell Riccota, an accident reconstructionist, further explained that the left-side and front damage to Plaintiff’s vehicle was not consistent with another motor vehicle. In addition, State Farm relied heavily on the testimony of Dr. Brian Kirschner, an expert neurologist, who appeared live at trial. Dr. Kirschner explained that the medical community knows certain people are more at risk for strokes but not why a stroke happens when it happens. He explained the different risk factors and that there is no medical evidence that a minor accident, fear or perceived fear puts a person at a higher risk of stroke. He further explained that left-sided neglect is a common stroke symptom and that, given the left-sided vehicle damage, it is more likely that the stroke caused the accident.
In the end, the jury found that Plaintiff’s stroke did not arise of the June 8, 2014 accident and returned a verdict in favor of State Farm.