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06/20/96 KIMBERLY SNOVER ET AL. v. BRIDGET J.

June 20, 1996

KIMBERLY SNOVER ET AL., APPELLANTS,
v.
BRIDGET J. MCGRAW, APPELLEE.



The Honorable Justice Nickels delivered the opinion of the court: Justice Harrison, dissenting: Justice Heiple joins in this dissent.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nickels

The Honorable Justice NICKELS delivered the opinion of the court:

The issue presented in this appeal is whether a jury is required to make an award for pain and suffering where it awards damages for pain-related medical expenses. The underlying action is a negligence action brought by plaintiffs, Kimberly Snover and her mother, Carol Snover, to recover for personal injuries suffered by Kimberly in an automobile collision. At the time of the collision, Kimberly was a passenger in a car driven by defendant, Bridget McGraw. After the collision, Kimberly incurred medical expenses, part of which both she and her mother paid. The jury returned verdicts in favor of plaintiffs, awarding $366 to Kimberly Snover and $1,235.65 to her mother Carol Snover. Plaintiffs appealed, seeking a new trial on the issue of damages. The appellate court affirmed. No. 1--94--1880 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We granted plaintiffs' petition for leave to appeal (155 Ill. 2d R. 315). We affirm.

FACTS

On September 23, 1989, Kimberly and defendant approached a four-way intersection in a car driven by defendant. The intersection had two-way stop signs, and defendant was required to yield to cross traffic. After defendant's car entered the intersection, another vehicle struck defendant's vehicle on the passenger's side. At trial, defendant stated that she did not realize the intersection had two-way stop signs only and that she did not see any cross traffic before the collision. Defendant had earlier pleaded guilty to failure to yield the right-of-way. The issue of liability was not strongly contested at trial, and the trial court directed liability in favor of plaintiffs.

Rescue personnel arrived at the scene of the collision. Kimberly complained of abdominal pain. The rescue personnel found no apparent bruising or swelling to the abdomen although Kimberly testified that she later developed a bruise on her stomach. An ambulance took Kimberly to a hospital, where she received emergency room treatment. Abdominal X rays were taken and proved negative. Kimberly was released from the hospital later that same day. The emergency room record showed no complaints of neck pain. It also showed that Kimberly had full range of motion in her neck.

Kimberly testified about the effect of the collision on her school activities. She stated that she was on her school's tennis team and missed three days to one week of tennis because of the collision. After that, she was able to play tennis regularly. Kimberly also missed three days to one week of gym class. In addition, Kimberly was on the track team and was able to participate in that activity.

Kimberly went to see her personal doctor two days after the collision complaining of headaches. At trial, Kimberly stated that she had suffered headaches once or twice per month prior to the collision. Based on the headaches, her doctor ordered a CAT scan. The CAT scan showed no sign of head injury.

On January 22, 1990, about four months after the collision, Kimberly went to see a neurologist, Dr. Gene Neri, complaining of headaches, dizziness, and neck pain. Dr. Neri diagnosed Kimberly as suffering from a cervical strain and recommended physical therapy. After this initial session, Kimberly went to nine physical therapy sessions with Dr. Neri between January 29, 1990, and February 21, 1990. During this time period, Kimberly reached the age of 18 and became legally responsible for her own medical bills. The jury's verdicts of $366 in favor of Kimberly and $1,235.65 in favor of her mother are exactly equal to the total of all medical bills incurred from the date of the collision through the final physical therapy session on February 21, 1990. The jury did not award any additional amount of damages for medical expenses incurred after February 21 or for any pain and suffering.

At trial, plaintiffs did seek to recover for medical damages incurred after February 21, 1990. On December 20, 1990, over a year after the car collision, Kimberly went to see a chiropractor, Dr. Traven. He diagnosed Kimberly as suffering from a cervical sprain. Kimberly received physical therapy treatments from Dr. Traven between January 2, 1991, and June 2, 1992. In August 1992, Kimberly returned to Dr. Neri, the neurologist, for more physical therapy treatment.

As indicated above, the jury did not award damages for either the medical treatment by Dr. Traven or the 1992 treatment by Dr. Neri. This failure to award damages may have been due, in part, to other possible neck injuries suffered by Kimberly after the 1989 collision. At trial, Kimberly stated that she had been involved in two subsequent car collisions on April 22, 1991, and September 25, 1991, and had suffered a weight lifting injury on January 31, 1991. It was argued that these incidents aggravated any existing neck injury.

Both Dr. Neri and Dr. Traven testified as experts for the plaintiffs. Both testified that Kimberly's neck pain was related to the 1989 collision. Both also testified that their respective treatments were reasonable and necessary to relieve the neck pain.

Dr. Hall, an orthopedic surgeon and the expert witness for the defense, disagreed with plaintiffs' experts. Dr. Hall did not personally examine Kimberly, but he reviewed Kimberly's medical records. Dr. Hall found no objective manifestations of neck injury, and in his opinion, Kimberly's neck injury was not causally connected to the collision. Dr. Hall stated that the emergency room treatment immediately after the collision was a reasonable and necessary medical expense. In addition, Kimberly's visit to her personal physician two days after the collision was reasonable and necessary. In Dr. Hall's opinion, all other medical expenses, including Kimberly's sessions with Dr. Neri and Dr. Traven, were not related to the 1989 collision and were not reasonable and necessary.

The jury awarded limited damages for medical out-of-pocket expenses. It awarded damages for the medical bills incurred from the date of the collision through Kimberly's initial physical therapy sessions with Dr. Neri, ending on February 21, 1990. In addition, in the itemized verdict form, the jury specifically awarded no damages for pain and suffering. Plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial in the trial court, challenging the jury's failure to award damages for pain and suffering. This motion was denied by the trial court. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed. On appeal to this court, plaintiffs argue ...


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