William Arnold says a chiropractor’s testimony and family photos helped show the jury that a car accident “wiped out the dream” of his client to become a scuba diver.
(Reprinted from www.dailyreportonline.com)
After winning a $125,000 jury verdict in a car crash case he once asked to settle for only $45,000, plaintiff’s lawyer William T. Arnold said his colleagues in the bar started asking the same question: “Where did the heat come from in this case?”
The answer, he said, was that the car accident that caused $16,000 in medical damages to his client also destroyed her dream of becoming a professional scuba diver.
Allstate Insurance Co., which insured the defendant driver, didn’t factor the plaintiff’s career hopes into its analysis.
“They misevaluated the case,” Arnold said. “We would have taken $45,000 to get it resolved. They offered $17,000.”
Defense attorney Arthur L. Myers Jr. of Allen & Associates, which represented Allstate, did not return calls for comment. Two Allstate corporate spokesmen reached were unfamiliar with the case.
The docket for the case in Bibb County State Court shows that the defendant paid the judgment on Feb. 13, and the case was closed.
Plaintiff Christina N. King testified that she had dreamed of being a professional scuba diver since she discovered sharks on a trip to Florida with her family while she was in middle school. By the time of the accident in 2007, she was 19, had a job in a dive shop and was halfway through the four levels of certification required to become a master scuba diver, according to her attorney, Arnold of Ayerbe & Arnold in Macon.
On Dec. 16, 2007, King was riding in a car driven by her friend Amanda L. Kendrick, who pulled away from a stop sign into the path of an oncoming car, which was traveling at the speed limit of 45 miles per hour. It hit King’s side of the car, and she was taken by ambulance to the Medical Center of Central Georgia emergency room, treated and released.
The bill was $7,500, according to court records. She had broken ribs and bruising in her chest, mainly from the seat belt. Later, she sought treatment from a chiropractor, F. David Reise, for continuing lower back pain. The chiropractor’s bill was $8,700, making the total medical bill $16,200.
King had to quit her job in the dive shop because she could no longer pick up and move the heavy tanks and equipment sold there. And she had to give up her training because the test for a master scuba diver requires putting on the equipment, jumping into a pool and pulling out a fully grown man, according to her lawyer.
“The wreck wiped out this dream she had,” said Arnold. “The theme of the case was the loss of the dream.”
Arnold said he has told the story a few times since the Feb. 1 verdict, which was above the $100,000 Allstate policy held by the defendant, Amanda Kendrick, the driver of the car in which King was a passenger. Because Arnold made a time limited demand for the $45,000, he had laid the groundwork for a bad faith claim to recover more than policy limits.
Arnold said the defense didn’t offer enough to cover the $16,000 in medical bills until the pre-trial conference with Bibb County State Court Judge William P. Adams. Arnold said he believes the insurance company didn’t place a value on the chiropractic treatment, even though the defense admitted liability.
But the chiropractor’s live testimony helped the plaintiff prove the case, Arnold said. The doctor talked about the severe bruising and swelling King still had in her chest and abdomen when she first visited him two months after the crash, as well as the continuing lower back pain she suffered. He also explained to the jury the meaning of a thermogram test he had done, which shows the location and degree of bruising and swelling. The plaintiff’s attorney entered the color picture of the thermogram into the record and showed it to the jury while the chiropractor explained.
“I think that resonated with the jury,” said Arnold.
Arnold also used photos to tell the jury the dream story-photos of years of family vacations planned around King’s scuba diving, including pictures of her swimming with sharks. “I focused a whole lot less on pain and suffering and medical aspects,” he said.
In the end, the jurors may have appreciated that, said Arnold, although he wasn’t able to talk with them after the verdict was announced.
Also, he believes jurors appreciated that the whole case was tried in a day. The jury got the case at 3 p.m., came back with a verdict in 45 minutes and left.
“A lot of studies show that people appreciate brevity,” said Arnold. “I try my best to keep it as brief as possible.”
The case is King v. Kendrick, No. 71906.
Staff Reporter Katheryn Hayes Tucker can be reached at email@example.com