On January 10, 2001, Ludnila Sulich was stopped at a red light on Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx when her car was struck by a city bus. Her head hit the left side window in her car resulting in significant neck pain.
When the 43 year old Ms. Sulich got out of her car the bus had left the scene. She called the police and gave them the numbers she saw before the bus pulled away. Declining an ambulance, an officer drover her home.
That night, after nausea, vomiting and continued pain, Ms. Sulich’s daughter drove her to the local hospital where she was treated and released. Two days later, she began a course of extended treatment with a chiropractor who, after an MRI a few months later, diagnosed her with bulging discs at C5-6 and C6-7.
In Ms. Sulich’s ensuing lawsuit, on September 23, 2010, a Bronx County jury awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $225,000 ($75,000 past – 10 years, $150,000 future – 20 years). The defendant successfully challenged the verdict as excessive and on appeal in Sulich v. City of New York (1st Dept. 2012), the future pain and suffering award has been reduced by $50,000.
The award now stands at $175,000 ($75,000 past, $100,000 future).
Here are the injury details:
- chiropractic therapy for one year
- disc bulges impinging on the thecal sac
- significantly restricted cervical range of motion that the treating chiropractor, John Guglielmucci testified is permanent
- daily neck pain restricting activities such as shopping (plaintiff can’t carry more than small groceries), exercise (she used to run more than five miles a day but cannot any longer) and activities of daily living (her adult daughter often has to assist her just to get out of bed and get dressed)
- Plaintiff testified that she stopped chiropractic treatment after a year because she could no longer afford it (her insurance benefits ran out) but resumed treatment a month before trial when she was able to afford it again.
- Defense neurologist Michael Carciente, M.D. testified that based on his examination plaintiff was normal neurologically. He said a disc bulge should not be a source of pain, there was no evidence of nerve impingement and he did not conduct range of motion tests because they are "not useful."
- The defense argued that the accident did not take place. There were no witnesses and the bus driver testified that he was not in any kind of accident on the day in question and there was no damage to his bus. Plaintiff was unable to produce any photographs showing damage to her car.
- Ms. Sulich had a work related back injury in 1990 for which she received Social Security Disability benefits having been declared partially disabled.
- In closing arguments, plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to award $75,000 for past pain and suffering damages and $150,000 for the future – the exact amounts thereafter awarded by the jury.