plaintiff was again hospitalized for tests and for nerve block treatments. She has since received occasional nerve blocks, which alleviate her pain for a week or two.
According to Dr. Marcelas, plaintiff is demonstrating a fair degree of "subjective" symptoms -- symptoms that cannot be documented. For example, she reports "subjective numbness" and "subjective sometimes observable" loss of arm use. Moreover, she reports a great degree of pain, which of course cannot be measured objectively. Plaintiff herself reports cramping problems with her right hand, making it difficult to hold objects. Her hand, she testified, quivers uncontrollably. She can hardly write and cannot drive. She cannot do housework, and in fact claims to be confined to her bed for most of the day. She has severe headaches. She has suffered severe depression for which she has recently seen a psychiatrist, and which she claims led to her separation from her husband.
Meanwhile, Dr. Marcelas testified that plaintiff's objective symptoms are spasms and limited neck mobility, along with previous right arm damage that "may have been" aggravated by this event. Dr. Marselas believes that plaintiff is suffering from cervical strain, or perhaps from a derangement of the cervical disc that somehow does not show up on two myelograms. Dr. Elliott Wilner, a neurologist who testified as an expert for the defendant, stated that there is only the "most remote" possibility that these myelograms would fail to reveal such a condition. Moreover, Dr. Wilner testified that further testing may have determined plaintiff's condition more accurately, but that plaintiff did not allow such tests, presumably because they would have been painful. Finally, Dr. Wilner did testify that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, plaintiff is suffering from a "neurological lesion" that arose from the instant accident.
At the time of the injury, plaintiff's main employment was as a comparison shopper for Dart Drug. It was her job to drive to competing stores, record prices of various items, and submit a weekly report. She had retained this job for eight months until the accident. Her salary was $12,480 per year at the time of the accident, for forty hours of weekly work. Plaintiff testified that Dart Drug fired her after the accident, but it should be noted that company records indicate the firing resulted from her failure to submit post-accident forms and not her inability to work. (Plaintiff in fact does not recall submitting a doctor's certificate.) Plaintiff has not since returned to work, and claims that her inability to drive and write prevents her from obtaining a comparable job. Meanwhile, plaintiff testified that with help, she has been conducting her video business, which basically consists of checking and retrieving money from video machines around the area. She has sold a half interest in the business and intends to sell the rest, presumably for fair compensation.
This rather long discussion should make it clear that determining fair compensation for plaintiff's injuries is no easy matter. Her pain almost certainly exists, but it is impossible to gauge its extent. It is far from clear to what extent the injuries to her right arm stem from her previous accident. It is impossible to determine the causal connection between the accident, the separation from her husband, and her depression. If plaintiff cannot hold objects, if plaintiff trembles uncontrollably, these facts were not evident in the courtroom, but they may well trouble plaintiff at other times and places.
Dr. Richard Lurito, an expert economist, testified that plaintiff would lose various amounts of money if she could not work at all, or work only at half-time or half-wages, for the remainder of her life. But despite her inability to drive and great difficulty in writing, there is no reason to believe why plaintiff cannot obtain a new job that pays $12,480 per year, or $6 per hour. She may experience headaches, but headaches do not prevent untold numbers of people from working when they must. Consequently, the Court will not award plaintiff damages for lost future earnings. As to past lost wages, plaintiff's claim of ninety-three weeks of lost work from this injury is vastly exaggerated, particularly since the loss of plaintiff's job was at least in part her fault. Instead, the Court will award twenty-six weeks of past lost wages at $240 per week, for a total of $6,240.
Plaintiff's claim of $70,805 in lost household services is even more out of the realm of realism, since it is once again based on disablement for the rest of plaintiff's lifetime. Instead, the Court will award fifty-two weeks of lost household services at $25 per week, for a total of $1,300. Plaintiff's claim of lost health insurance benefits will be reduced from $19,184 to $1,000; presumably, she will regain group health benefits when she obtains new employment. Plaintiff's past medical expenses will be awarded in full -- $10,786. Finally, the Court will award plaintiff $30,000 for pain and suffering.
An appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.
Upon consideration of the evidence presented during trial on December 15 and 16, 1986, as well as the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law submitted by the parties, the entire record herein and the evidence adduced at trial, and for the reasons stated in the Opinion issued contemporaneously herewith, it is this 5th day of March, 1987
ORDERED that judgment be and it is hereby entered in favor of plaintiff Irma D. Lariscy in the amount of $49,326, representing $6,240 in lost earnings, $1,300 in household services, $1,000 in lost health insurance benefits, $10,786 in past medical expenses, and $30,000 for pain and suffering.