Judge rules against city in crash

Published 9:17 pm Friday, August 8, 2014

A Circuit Court judge on Friday awarded almost $13,000 to a Pughsville woman in her lawsuit against the city and a former mosquito control intern stemming from an October 2010 crash.

Judge Robert G. O’Hara, a substitute judge who is retired, decided in favor of Delores Thornton, 50 at the time of the crash, who said she was injured during the collision on Townpoint Road on Oct. 14, 2010.

The accident happened when Jamie Durden, a biological intern for mosquito control, was pulling off a dirt path west of Townpoint Road, where she had been picking up a mosquito trap. She testified that her passenger seat was blocking her view of the road, and that she pulled onto the road at three or four miles an hour.

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Thornton said she was going 25 miles per hour, which is the speed limit on the two-lane road. The wreck caused minor damage to both vehicles.

Thornton waited until the next day to go to the hospital because, she said, she did not feel any pain until later that night. At the hospital, she received pain medications and was told to follow up with a doctor if symptoms persisted.

She later started seeing a physical therapist, Dr. Arthur Wardell. On her first visit, a week after the accident, she signed a paper signing over the proceeds from any judgment to the doctor. She already had a lawyer at that point, said Dave Arnold of Pender and Coward, who was representing Durden and the city.

“I couldn’t rest; I couldn’t even sleep,” Thornton testified Friday. “I was very active, but after this happened I couldn’t even wear heels.”

Durden testified that Thornton felt well enough after the accident to jump over a roadside ditch so that she could stand under a tree to take shelter from the rain while waiting for someone to pick her up.

Arnold implied the doctor did unnecessary tests and provided unnecessary therapy that, by Thornton’s own admission, wasn’t helping her pain, as soon as the doctor found out there would be a potential lawsuit in the case.

“I think the doctor saw his opportunity,” Arnold said.

But Thornton’s attorney, Stan Clark, disagreed.

“If you can get by with medical bills under $10,000, that’s pretty conservative treatment,” he said. “There’s no evidence she was exaggerating.”

Judge O’Hara awarded $6,424.08 for the medical bills plus $4,000 for pain and discomfort and $2,500 for inconvenience, for a total of $12,924.08. He also awarded interest from Feb. 1, 2011.

The plaintiffs had appealed the case from General District Court, where they received a judgment of only $3,500 and costs from Judge Alfred W. Bates III. Bates wrote in his order that he had “significant questions regarding the plaintiff’s credibility and is simply not convinced from the evidence presented that much of the treatment recommended and authorized by Dr. Wardell was causally related to the accident involving Ms. Durden. In fact, the court is convinced to the contrary. … Much of her testimony at trial was simply not credible.”