“Serious Injury” to Knee in Car Accident Case

In Prince v. Lovelace, decided March 4, 2014, the Appellate Division, First Department reversed a trial court’s decision that plaintiff did not suffer a “serious injury” under New York’s “No-Fault” Law, Insurance Law § 5102(d):

Defendant failed to establish prima facie that plaintiff did not suffer a serious injury to his right knee as a result of the accident. Defendant’s expert orthopedist did not measure the range of motion of the knee, and failed to identify any tests that were done to support his conclusion that any injuries had resolved. He stated that he could not comment on whether there was any preexisting knee pathology but that he “suspect[ed]” degenerative changes; this statement is too equivocal to satisfy defendant’s burden on the issue of causation. Defendant’s expert chiropractor measured an apparently minor limitation in range of motion of the knee and stated that there was a causal relationship based on the history provided, but declined to provide an opinion regarding plaintiff’s disability “as it relates” to the right knee injury and surgery, deferring to “the appropriate specialist.”

Even assuming that defendant made a prima facie showing, plaintiff raised an issue of fact by proffering the report of his treating physician, who performed arthroscopic surgery to repair lateral and medial meniscus tears of the right knee, which were shown on MRI film. The physician opined, based on his review of the MRI, his operative findings, and plaintiff’s history, that plaintiff suffered an injury causally related to the accident and that he suffered permanent limitations in range of motion and other continuing symptoms.

Since plaintiff met his threshold burden that he sustained a serious injury to his right knee, the court found it unnecessary to address whether his claimed cervical and lumbar injuries were also sufficient to meet the no-fault threshold.

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