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New Woman Loses Personal Injury Lawsuit After Receiving Spinal Surgery

by PhilBalbo on August 16, 2012

This article was written by Andy Sampson of Price Benowitz LLP.

A setback for any personal injury lawyer is to have a case completely tossed out of court by a high court justice. This is exactly what happened recently in the closely watched case of Mangione vs Jacobs in Queens County, New York.

Susanna Mangione filed a personal injury lawsuit in 2010 claiming that she suffered spinal injuries from a car accident in which she was involved. Mangione did not undergo the independent medical examinations (IMEs) that were ordered by the court but chose instead to have elective spinal surgery.

Charles J. Markey, Supreme Court Justice of Queens County, ruled on July 31, 2012, that Mangione spoiled crucial evidence that defendants in her lawsuit needed to independently verify her contention that her alleged injuries were the result of the car accident. Therefore, the defendants could not effectively argue their case.

Further, Mangione could not prove her claim that the accident caused her serious injury because of her surgery.

Mangione said in her complaint that she was riding in a taxi on Dec. 2, 2009, in Queens County when the cab collided with another vehicle. Mangione claimed that the taxi driver was “talking out loud,” which indicated to her that he was using a cell phone while driving with either an earpiece or a hands-free device at the time of the collision.

Mangione claimed she hurt her shoulder and back in the accident. She later filed suit against the taxi driver, Glener Simbana, the taxi company, Ramabel Limo Inc, and Jules Jacobs, the driver of the other car.

Markey said in his ruling that the most important issue, the IMEs, were raised by Jacobs’ attorneys in their motion to dismiss. Jacobs’ lawyers argued that Mangione had previously filed personal injury lawsuits and failed to go to court-ordered IMEs. In one lawsuit, Mangione said she was riding on a bus on Nov. 17, 2008, when it came to a sudden stop and she fell down, hurting her shoulder and back. Defendant lawyers in the case against the cab company and Jacobs said they asked Mangione for her medical records from her suit against the bus company but the documents were not produced, even though she had the same lawyers in both cases.

According to Markey’s ruling, three court orders were issued for Mangione to undergo an IME and Mangione ignored all three orders. When an IME for Feb. 22, 2012, was rescheduled to March 7, Mangione decided to have elective spinal surgery on Feb. 27.

The judge strongly disagreed with Mangione’s decision to have spinal surgery, writing that her action took away the means for defendants’ doctors and attorneys to trace any connection between her alleged injuries from the bus accident in 2008 to the taxi cab accident in 2009. The surgery, along with Mangione’s “intentional thwarting” of the three court orders to have IMEs, warranted the sanction of dismissing the lawsuit, Markey ruled.

Although this case happened in New York, a car accident lawyer in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, D.C., could learn from the outcome of this lawsuit by insisting that clients be willing to provide documented evidence of claims of physical suffering. It would also be beneficial for an injury lawyer to encourage his clients to follow court orders, especially when it is the lawyer’s intention to win the case.

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