Shelli Healy argues a 2012 car crash between her client, Andre Serenberg and Lauren Stern did not cause Stern's carpal tunnel syndrome. Jurors ultimately rejected Stern's claim seeking $250,000 plus punitives for the accident.
West Palm Beach, FL—A 2012 car crash did not deliver the career-ending injuries a former lab technician claims she suffered, a jury found last week in a quarter-million-dollar-plus trial. Stern v. Serenberg, 2014-CA-005209.
Lauren Stern, a former University of Florida lab technician, claims she suffered lifelong carpal tunnel injuries in a collision with Andre Serenberg’s Ford Ranger, which led to her dismissal from a University of Florida lab.
However, jurors capped a week-long trial by finding the collision did not injure Stern, who underwent hand surgery but was ultimately dismissed from UF’s College of Medicine because she said she could not return to work.
Stern’s attorney, Cohen Milstein’s Adam Langino, requested up to $250,000 in compensatories including up to $150,000 to retrain Stern for a career as an occupational therapist. Stern also sought punitive damages, contending Serenberg was under the influence of marijuana when the accident occurred. Serenberg denied he was impaired, and the jury’s verdict on causation rendered the issue moot.
The case turned on the link between Stern’s injuries and the crash, which allegedly occurred when Serenberg swerved to avoid a raccoon. During closings last Thursday, Langino argued the weight of medical testimony established Stern’s hand injuries were crash-related. “All the medical doctors, besides the defendant’s paid expert, say the crash caused the carpal tunnel syndrome,” Langino said. “(And) he just reached (the opposite conclusion), I would submit to you, because he’s earning about $340,000 a year to provide legal testimony primarily for defense attorneys.”
Langino detailed Stern’s hand injuries and the circumstances surrounding UF’s dismissal, and argued his client's carpal tunnel syndrome took away the precise hand control key to her work as a laboratory technician, effectively ending her career. “An injury that is a minor injury to one person can have major consequences for another person. The fighter pilot, he needs 20-20 vision. The baseball pitcher needs that great rotator cuff,” Langino said. “The infectious disease laboratory scientist needs the perfect hands.”
However, the defense argued the accident, which caused less than $800 in parts damage to Stern’s car, was so minor it could not have caused Stern’s carpal tunnel syndrome. During last week’s closings, Roberts, Reynolds, Bedard’s Shelli Healy acknowledged testimony that carpal tunnel syndrome could be caused by trauma, but claimed there was nothing to link the accident to Stern’s hand injury. “There has been no evidence that the way this accident happened caused her carpal tunnel symptoms,” Healy said. “You did not hear any evidence from (plaintiff’s experts witnesses) about them having any knowledge about the forces involved in this accident, or how this accident occurred.
“There was nothing.”
Healy also noted Stern did not complain of hand pain during her emergency room visit after the accident, and argued Stern’s version of the accident and her injuries changed in the months following the collision. “The only basis (plaintiff’s experts) were provided to conclude that this accident caused Stern’s carpal tunnel (syndrome) was the plaintiff telling them that it was caused by this accident,” Healy said.
“That is the sole basis for the opinion as to causation.”
The jury took less than two hours to reach its verdict.
Email Arlin Crisco at [email protected].
Lauren Stern is represented by Cohen Milstein’s Adam Langino. Andre Serenberg is represented by Roberts, Reynolds, Bedard’s Shelli Healy.
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