Marietta, GA – A Cobb County State Court jury awarded over $208,000 to a man who suffered severe neck injuries when another driver ran a red light and struck his car broadside. Jorge Horton v. Shannon King-Cortopassi, 12-A-3850.
The jury awarded Jorge Horton approximately $28,000 for incurred medical expenses and $180,000 for pain and suffering to cap the two-day trial.
According to attorneys’ statements and trial testimony, Horton was struck on January 2, 2012 as he was crossing an intersection on Atlanta’s Roberts Drive. Horton claimed that the driver of the other car, Shannon King-Cortopassi, was traveling about 40 mph and failed to brake when she hit Horton’s car.
Horton testified that, after the accident, he received conservative treatment at two local clinics for his injuries. After several months of treatment, Horton said he consulted another physician when he believed he wasn’t improving.
Prior to the trial, King-Cortopassi admitted liability for the accident and for the medical expenses Horton incurred while undergoing treatment. The only issue for the jury to determine was the amount of damages due Horton for future medical expenses and pain and suffering.
The treating physician diagnosed Horton, now 52, with degenerative disc disease in his neck, a condition present in 85% of people by age 50. However, the doctor also found that Horton had two herniated discs and recommended surgery. He noted that Horton, who had performed manual labor his entire life, had never reported any symptoms of trauma before the accident and determined that that the herniated discs were caused by the accident.
The defense expert, Dr. Barry Jeffries, came to a contrary conclusion after examining Horton’s medical records, including MRI scans. He found that Horton’s herniated discs were solely the result of age-related degenerative disc disease. Jeffries testified via video deposition that herniated discs caused by a sudden accident would be accompanied by other damage such as fractured bones, torn muscles, and internal bleeding, none of which Horton suffered.
In his opening statement, Horton’s attorney, Joe Weeks, asked the jury, “Who are you going to believe, the treating physician or a hired witness… [Dr. Jeffries] could have, but he didn’t, do an independent medical examination… He testifies, as I said, 27 years, 2500 times; he disagrees with the patient and their doctor at least 2475 of those times. That’s really what this case is about, do you believe a treating physician or someone who’s hired to say the same thing over and over and over again?”
King-Coropassi’s attorney, Kristie Fitzgerald, explained to the jury in her opening statement her reasons for consulting Dr. Jeffries. “I went to law school; I didn’t go to medical school… When I needed someone to look at [Horton’s] MRIs, which I had no clue how to read, I had to go to … a treating physician. He sees MRIs every day.” Further, she noted that Horton had not undergone the recommended surgery, that he was still working, and that he had received no physical therapy or injections in the two years before trial.
Attorneys for the parties could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.
Joe A. Weeks of Avondale Estates represented Jorge Horton, and Kristie Fitzgerald of the Atlanta firm of Sharon W. Ware & Associates represented Shannon King-Cortopassi.
Watch on-demand video of the trial as soon as it becomes available.
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