This is an action to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained by the plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident on June 24, 2006 at approximately 8:45 a.m. The accident occurred at Hill Avenue at its intersection with Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead, New York. Plaintiff alleges that he was stopped at a red light when the vehicle owned and operated by defendant rear-ended plaintiff’s vehicle. The police accident report states that “motor vehicle #1 in collision with motor vehicle #2.”
In his bill of particulars, a Lawyer said that plaintiff alleges that he sustained the following injuries: subligamentous central posterior disc herniation at C4-5, subligamentous central posterior disc hernation at C5-6, impinging on the anterior aspect of the spinal canal posterior lumbar herniation at L4-5, and straightening of the lumbar curvature.
A Long Island doctor said that, defendant moves for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the grounds that plaintiff did not sustain a serious injury as defined by Insurance Law § 5102(d). In support thereof, defendant relies uponplaintiff’s deposition testimony and an affirmed medical report of the doctor. At his examination-before-trial, plaintiff testified to his inability to perform activities due to his injuries sustained in the accident. Specifically, plaintiff was physically restricted and not able to swim, mountain bike and exercise.
On June 8, 2010, the doctor performed an independent orthopedic evaluation of plaintiff. His examination of the cervical spine revealed “maintenance of the normal cervical lordosis. Range of motion reveals flexion to 50 degrees (50 normal), extension to 45 degrees (45 normal), right and left lateral bending to 45 degrees (45 normal) and right and left rotation to 80 degrees (80 normal). There is right and left sided paracervical tenderness. There is no spasm noted upon palpation. Compression and Spurling tests are negative. Deep tendon reflexes are 2+ and equal in the upper extremities. Upper extremity strength is 5/5. There is no noted atrophy. Sensation is intact.” His examination of the thoracolumbar spine revealed “maintenance of the normal lumbar lordosis. Range of motion of flexion is to 90 degrees (90 degrees normal), extension to 30 degrees (30 degrees normal), right and left lateral bending to 30 degrees (30 degrees normal) and right and left rotation to 30 degrees (30 degrees normal). Straight leg raise testing is negative, performed to 90 degrees bilaterally in the sitting position. There is no paralumbar tenderness. There is no spasm noted upon palpation. Lasegue and Fabere tests were negative. Deep tendon reflexes are 2+ and equal. Lower extremity strength is 5/5. Sensation is intact. There are no signs of lower extremity atrophy.” His impression was: cervical sprain, resolved; lumbar sprain, resolved. Finally, he opined that plaintiff has “no orthopedic disability at this time and that there is no residual or permanency.”
The issue in this case is whether plaintiff sustained serious injury as defined under Insurance Law.
The Court said that, as a proponent of the summary judgment motion, defendant had the initial burden of establishing that plaintiff did not sustain a causally related serious injury under the permanent consequential limitation of use, significant limitation of use and 90/180-day categories. Defendant’s medical expert must specify the objective tests upon which the stated medical opinions are based and, when rendering an opinion with respect to plaintiff’s range of motion, must compare any findings to those ranges of motion considered normal for the particular body part.
The Manhattan defendants established their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by submitting, the affirmed medical reports of the doctor who examined plaintiff in 2010 and found no significant limitations in the ranges of motion with respect to any of his claimed spinal injuries, and no other serious injury within the meaning of Insurance Law § 5102(d) causally related to the collision.
The burden now shifts to plaintiff to demonstrate, by the submission of objective proof of the nature and degree of the injury, that she sustained a serious injury or there are questions of fact as to whether the purported injury, in fact, is serious. In order to satisfy the statutory serious injury threshold, a plaintiff must have sustained an injury that is identifiable by objective proof; subjective complaints of pain do not qualify as serious injury within the meaning of Insurance Law § 5102(d).
Plaintiff must come forth with objective evidence of the extent of alleged physical limitation resulting from injury and its duration. That objective evidence must be based upon a recent examination of the plaintiff. Even where there is medical proof, when contributory factors interrupt the chain of causation between the accident and the claimed injury, summary dismissal of the complaint may be appropriate. Whether a limitation of use or function is significant or consequential relates to medical significance and involves a comparative determination of the degree or qualitative nature of an injury based on the normal function, purpose and use of a body part.
It has been repeatedly held that “the mere existence of herniated or bulging discs, and even radiculopathy, is not evidence of a serious injury in the absence of objective evidence of the extent of the alleged physical limitations resulting from the disc injury and its duration”.
Moreover, “a defendant who submits admissible proof that the plaintiff has a full range of motion, and that she or he suffers from no disabilities causally related to the motor vehicle accident, has established a prima facie case that the plaintiff did not sustain a serious injury within the meaning of Insurance Law § 5102(d), despite the existence of an MRI which shows herniated or bulging discs “.
In opposition to the motion and in support of his cross-motion, plaintiff submits, the parties’ deposition testimony; the police accident report. Contrary to plaintiff’s contention, he has not raised a triable issue of fact as to whether he sustained a serious injury as defined by Insurance Law §5102(d). The affirmations from plaintiff’s chiropractors lack probative value as they are not in proper form. Moreover, these chiropractors do not set forth any foundation or objective medical basis supporting the conclusions they reached.
The remaining submissions of plaintiff, which consisted of unaffirmed magnetic resonance imaging reports of plaintiff’s lumbosacral spine and cervical spine injury is also without probative value as they are unaffirmed. In addition, plaintiff failed to explain or address the prolonged gap in medical treatment. Finally, plaintiff has not sustained his burden under the 90/180 day category which requires plaintiff to submit objective evidence of a “medically determined injury or enforcement of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the natural acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury”. When construing the statutory definition of a 90/180 day claim, the words ‘substantially all’ should be construed to mean that the person has been prevented from performing his usual activities to a great extent, rather than some slight curtailment.”
Specifically, plaintiff has no admissible medical reports stating that plaintiff was disabled, unable to work or unable to perform daily activities for the first ninety (90) days out of one hundred eighty (180) days, Plaintiff is only able to proffer his own self-serving proof that he missed 3-4 days of work; that he couldn’t go swimming in the ocean while on a working trip to Mexico; that he couldn’t go mountain biking anymore; or exercise as frequently as he used to.
In light of our determination, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability has been rendered moot. Accordingly, the Court held that the plaintiff’s motion is denied. The Defendant’s motion is granted. It is hereby ordered, that the plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed.
If you suffered spinal injury in the course of an accident, you need the help of a Nassau Spinal Injury Attorney or Nassau Personal Injury Attorney in order to file a claim on your behalf against the party at fault. Call us at Stephen Bilkis and Associates, our Nassau Injury Attorney can handle your day in Court.