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DiFranco v. Kusar

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

November 6, 2017

GUISEPPINA DiFRANCO and EUGENIO DiFRANCO, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CONSTANCE KUSAR, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 13 L 6288 The Honorable Edward S. Harmening, Judge Presiding.

          PIERCE PRESIDING JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Harris and Mikva concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          PIERCE PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Guiseppina DiFranco sued Constance Kusar to recover for injuries that plaintiff sustained in a motor vehicle accident.[1] At the jury trial, defendant admitted negligence, and thus the only issues at trial were whether defendant's negligence was the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries and the amount of damages, if any. The jury entered a verdict in favor of plaintiff, and awarded her $1000 for the reasonable expense of necessary medical care, treatment, and services received; $0 for the loss of normal life; and $0 for pain and suffering. The circuit court denied plaintiff's posttrial motion for a new trial. The circuit court also granted in part and denied in part plaintiff's posttrial motion for costs. On appeal, plaintiff contends that: (1) the jury's damages award is against the manifest weight of the evidence; (2) the circuit court erred in denying her motion for a new trial; and (3) the circuit court erred in denying in part her posttrial motion for costs. We find no error and affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The following facts were presented at trial.

         ¶ 4 On June 9, 2011, plaintiff was driving in stop-and-go traffic, and while stopped, her vehicle was struck from behind by a vehicle operated by defendant. The collision caused plaintiff's vehicle to hit the vehicle in front of hers. It also caused her body to move forward and backward, and her knees struck the dashboard. Immediately following the collision, she experienced pain in her neck, back, and arm. She was taken by ambulance to GlenOaks Hospital (GlenOaks). She testified that while she was in the emergency room, her pain was a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. At GlenOaks, she was examined and instructed to follow up with her family physician, Edwin W. Anderson, M.D. On June 13, 2011, plaintiff followed up with Dr. Anderson.

         ¶ 5 Dr. Anderson's evidence deposition was admitted into evidence at trial. He testified that plaintiff told him that she had pain in her arm, neck, and back related to the June 9 collision. Dr. Anderson examined plaintiff and found tenderness in her lower back, a normal range of motion of the neck, a normal shoulder exam, a normal elbow exam, and tenderness in the right pelvis area. He stated that plaintiff reported she felt "moderate pain." He concluded that she sustained a cervical strain, an arm strain, a forearm strain, and a back strain. Dr. Anderson recommended that plaintiff undergo physical therapy and take over-the-counter pain relievers. According to plaintiff, she performed her physical therapy at GlenOaks.

         ¶ 6 Dr. Anderson examined plaintiff again on July 15, 2011. He stated that she complained of pain radiating down from her neck into her right arm and lower back. Dr. Anderson determined that this new complaint was related to the June 9 collision and that plaintiff sustained an injury to her lower back and neck from the collision. He recommended that she continue with her physical therapy and gave her prednisone for her inflammation and swelling. He also referred her to Dr. Lawrence Frank, a nonsurgical back doctor, because her condition was "worsening with physical therapy and not improving."

         ¶ 7 According to plaintiff, Dr. Frank recommended that she undergo physical therapy at GlenOaks, which she did for four months. After completing the physical therapy, Dr. Franks told plaintiff to follow up with Dr. Anderson if her pain continued. Plaintiff testified that she was still experiencing pain after January 12, 2012, and that her pain got worse.

         ¶ 8 Dr. Anderson examined plaintiff again on August 9, 2012, when she came in complaining of right arm and hand numbness. Dr. Anderson concluded that the pain was possibly nerve related, "either carpel tunnel or cervical radiculopathy, " and his "working assumption" was that this was related to the June 9 collision. He recommended that plaintiff get an electromyelogram (EMG), which was performed at Alexian Brothers Medical Center. Based on the results of the EMG, Dr. Anderson concluded that plaintiff had "a pinched nerve in the cervical area as well as a right carpal tunnel syndrome" and that the pinched nerve was due to the June 9 collision.

         ¶ 9 On August 20, 2012, Dr. Anderson recommended that plaintiff undergo an MRI, the results of which demonstrated "multiple abnormalities in the cervical spine." Dr. Anderson stated that, based on his education and examinations of plaintiff, the course of treatment he recommended was necessary as a result of the June 9 collision.

         ¶ 10 Plaintiff testified that Dr. Anderson referred her to Dr. Rosenblatt, whom plaintiff described as a "bone specialist." Dr. Rosenblatt prescribed physical therapy, which plaintiff underwent at Athletico.

         ¶ 11 At trial, plaintiff offered into evidence bills she had received for treatment following the June 9, 2011, collision. In total, she was billed $29, 331.88, which included amounts billed for the emergency room visit on June 9, 2011, her follow-up visits with doctors Anderson, Frank, and ...


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