Wooster v. Bafidis

CASE:  Karen Wooster v. Melissa Bafidis

DATE:  April 19, 2007

COURT:  County Court #10, Bexar County, San Antonio, Texas

JUDGE:  Irene Rios

PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY:  Richard F. Neville, III, Law Offices of Richard F. Neville, III (San Antonio, TX)

DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Hal F. Pickett, Susan L. Florence & Associates (San Antonio, TX)

FACTS & ALLEGATIONS:

On September 22, 2004, plaintiff Karen Wooster, 29, a self-employed sales representative, was making a right turn from the westbound access road of Highway 1604 onto Stone Oak Parkway in San Antonio.  She was rear-ended by Melissa Bafidis, who was driving an SUV.  Wooster was in a mid-sized sedan.

Wooster sued Bafidis for negligence in not keeping a proper lookout.  Bafidis acknowledged that she was looking over her left shoulder just before the impact.

Bafidis contended that the plaintiff moved forward, but then stopped for no reason; she said Stone Oak was clear.

The plaintiff’s car sustained $750 in damage which appeared in to be minimal in photos.  The plaintiff’s engineering expert testified that the amount of vehicle damage is not a reliable indicator of forces involved in collisions and that significant forces can occur in collisions with no visible damage.

The defense argued minor impact and retained a biomechanical engineering expert, Mr. Adelino Yung, P.E., but did not call him live at trial.  In his deposition, Mr. Yung stated that the SUV was going no more than 5 or 6 MPH and that the car’s change in velocity (or “delta v”) was on the order of 2.5 to 3 MPH.  Mr. Yung said that the impact was comparable to a bumper car impact with respect to the speeds, forces and accelerations.

Just before trial, the court ruled that the defense expert could testify about his analysis and the bumper car impact.  The defense opted not to call him.

INJURIES/DAMAGES:

Wooster complained of neck pain at the scene and drove herself to the emergency room for treatment.  She later saw her family doctor, who referred her to an orthopedic surgeon.  She was diagnosed with a small cervical protrusion and radiating pain in the upper extremities, and she treated with medication, physical therapy and some injections.  In January 2006, the orthopedic surgeon said she was doing well, with no more arm pain and almost no neck pain.  Her symptoms flared up that June after a minor parking lot accident (with no police report and no property damage), for which she underwent some more physical therapy.  She said she continues to have neck pain that limits her physical activities with her children and other daily activities that are strenuous.

Her medical bills totaled $33,000; the injections were $12,000, and the balance was mostly for physical therapy and MRIs.  She also claimed future medical bills and past pain and suffering and physical impairment, but not lost earnings.  Her attorney asked for $147,000 total.

RESULT:  $61,000

DEMAND:  $50,000

OFFER:  $35,000

PLAINTIFF’S EXPERTS:
Jack Leifer, Ph.D., P.E.
Engineering (San Antonio, TX)

DEFENSE EXPERTS:
*Adelino Yung, P.E.
Biomechanical Engineer (Houston, TX)

*Not called live at trial

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