A Lawyer’s View of an Injury Trial in Clayton County Georgia


Well, we are on day 3 of our trial against a State Farm insured in Clayton County State Court. The client had a wreck in 2004 and hired another lawyer who had some trouble getting the case onto a trial calendar. She was unhappy that the case had not been reached on the trial calendar after 4 years of litigation. Our firm along with Werner and Associates out of Tucker, Georgia took on the case and pushed the case to trial this week.

I write to give readers an overview of what a somewhat complex trial in Clayton County Georgia is like. The client in this case was in a Toyota 4-Runner which showed almost no demonstrable damage to the truck. The Defendant’s car had $3,000 in damage but State Farm never took pictures for reasons unknown. The hurdle in the case will be the photos of the client’s car which do not show much property damage,
The client went to the emergency room the day of the crash complaining of neck pain and stiffness. She followed up with her primary care doctor the next day and that began 6 years of medical care. Within 3 months of the crash she was referred by her doctor for an MRI and was diagnosed with a disc herniation at C5-C6 by an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon recommended a one level Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion.

The client was not comfortable getting surgery initially and opted for physical therapy and epidural steroid injections. Epidural steroid injections involve injecting steroids directly into the spinal canal at the level of injury in an effort to take down the swelling. The patient had to stop after the second steroid injection because she had a severe systemic reaction to the medicine and began bleeding vaginally. After 7 months with these conservative cures failing, she consulted with two other orthopedic surgeons, who both suggested she undergo surgery. She actually scheduled the surgery, but backed out due to fears about paralysis or death and who would care for her young son.

After undergoing further physical therapy, she consulted with two other orthopedic surgeons in hope of finding an less invasive alternative. Finally, frustrated and in pain, she underwent an anterior cervical fusion with Dr. Plas James in October 2007.

Although the surgery was successful, as luck would have it, she developed severe hip pain and was diagnosed within months with AVN (avascular necrosis) of the hips. Her hip surgeon reviewed her medical history and given that she had none of the other common causes such as alcoholism, direct trauma or sickle cell anemia, he gave the opinion that her hips were dying from AVN due to the two epidural steroid injections.

The hip surgeon testified that there are emerging studies showing that 1) high dose injection of steroids can cause AVN even after only one injection and 2) that some people have severe adverse reactions to the steroids.

Day 1
The first day of the trial is consumed with motions in limine and voir dire. Motions in limine are motions to limit the introduction of certain pieces of evidence. The lawyers anticipate evidence that the other side may bring in and argue legal authority on whether or not it is allowed.

Voir dire is the process wherein the lawyers ask the prospective jurors questions to determine whether they are biased going into the case.

Day 2
Evidence begins
The biggest obstacle for the jury in the case will be that the photo of the client’s car shows almost no damage. So far, the client, her mother, two friends and her primary care doctor have testified live.

Day 3
Court gets a late start because of a criminal trial calendar ahead of us. Two orthopedic surgeons testify that the disc herniation was caused by the collision and that the disc fusion is related to the crash. Another surgeon also testified about the client’s necrotic hips being caused by epidural steroid injections. The plaintiffs evidence will close today and tomorrow State Farm will put up their evidence.

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