IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
Case No. RDB-09-1839
Honorable James K. Bredar
United States Magistrate Judge
United States District Court
District of Maryland
101 West Lombard Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Re: Rowzie v. Realfeldl
Civil No. RDB-09-1839
Dear Judge Bredar:
Plaintiff Sandra Rowzie is represented in this case by Ronald V. Miller, Jr. Laura G. Zois, of Miller & Zois, LLC. This case has been referred to this Court for mediation which is scheduled to take place on June 1, 2014. In response to your Honor’s April 5, 2014 correspondence, we submit this letter addressing your areas of inquiry.
1. Facts Plaintiff Can Prove at Trial:
On June 16, 2012, the Plaintiffs and several other family members were traveling westbound on Interstate 40. The family was en route to Plaintiff Rowzie’s parents home in Topeka, Kansas for her family’s summer vacation. Both Ms. Rowzie and her husband are school teachers who regularly summer in Kansas. Plaintiff Rowzie was driving the family vehicle, a 2012 Ford Explorer. Traffic came to a stop and Plaintiff Rowzie brought her vehicle to a stop. The stop lasted long enough that Plaintiff Rowzie turned her captain’s chair toward her husband before the impact took place. Plaintiff Rowzie was twisted towards her husband, when Defendant Kim Perna struck the Plaintiff’s vehicle in the rear.
Defendant Perna was an employee of Ford Motor Credit at the time of the accident, but is no longer employed with Ford, and is currently employed with BP. Liability has not been conceded but does not appear to be seriously contested.
Plaintiffs are confident that the Defendants will be found negligent. There is no formal police report in this case, but the parties did exchange information at the scene. Admittedly, there is minimal visible damage to the rear of Plaintiff Rowzie’s vehicle. See attached hereto Exhibit “A.” However, the repair estimate in the case is in the amount of $3,855.76 which was paid by the Defendants. See Exhibit “B,” repair estimate.
1. Injuries and Medical Expenses.
As a result of the June 16, 2006 accident, Sandra Rowzie has incurred $101,534.52 in past medical expenses. I have attached hereto as Exhibit “C” the chronology of her medical treatment along with an itemization of the medical expenses incurred.
As a result of the accident Plaintiff Rowzie initially had complaints to various parts of her body. However, since the accident she now has a chronic low back injury. She initially treated with conservative physical therapy, a course of steroids and narcotic pain medications but she failed to respond to these conservative measures.
She did have pre-existing degenerative disc disease and facet arthropathy which was aggravated in the accident, but was asymptomatic prior to this accident. Before June 16, 2012, Sandra enjoyed a very healthy and active lifestyle with no physical ailments, no complaints of pain, and no prior injuries or claims.
After her conservative methods of treatment failed, she underwent nerve root blocks and epidural injections. Her condition continued to deteriorate. She had a discogram to identify her disogenic pain which could not be fully appreciated on an MRI. The discogram performed in March of 2008 demonstrated marked pain at the L5-S1 and she was diagnosed with an internal disc disruption. Pain was also confirmed at the L4-L5 level.
After this diagnostic study, she was referred to Dr. Speciale for a consultation regarding surgery; however, Dr. Speciale did not consider her to be a surgical candidate. Plaintiff Rowzie then had an IDET procedure which did not provide her any significant relief. An IDET is a procedure that uses a probe inserted into the disc to heat the tissues within the affected disc. Heating the inside of the disc causes the tissues to shrink. It also cauterizes, or burns, the small nerve fibers in the periphery of the disc. This too failed to eliminate her pain.
Unfortunately, Plaintiff Rowzie continues to be in chronic pain and sees Dr. Davies monthly. Her pain is currently being treated with narcotic pain medication. Dr. Davies has suggested the possibility of having a spinal cord stimulator and that option is being considered.
Dr. Davies has opined that Plaintiff Rowzie’s ongoing future medical expenses would be in the $5,000 to $10,000 range per year. This figure does not include the spinal cord stimulator which has been estimated at $30,000. See Dr. Davies reports dated April 11, 2008 and January 13, 2010 attached hereto as Exhibit “D.” The total potential exposure for the future medical expenses for Sandra would be in the range of $172,500 to $345,000. Sandra’s life expectancy as of the date of the mediation is 35.4 years. See attached hereto current Life Table as Exhibit “E.”
Sandy Rowzie’s total future medical expenses would be in the range of $202,500 to $375,000.
Sandy Rowzie applied for and was granted Social Security Disability. See Attached hereto Exhibit “F,” Social Security Administration, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. Plaintiff Rowzie was found to be severely impaired and the findings of fact included that she had disogenic axial back pain, lumbar facet injury, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, sacroiliac joint injury and facet arthropathy. Furthermore, the Social Security Administration found that the claimant was unable to perform or tolerate work activities for a full 8-hour workday on any sustained basis and due to the severity of her impairment and the drowsiness due to her pain medications she was unable to do any sedentary work.
The findings of the Social Security Administration also lend credibility to the fact that the Plaintiff was injured in the June 6, 2012 car accident which has left her unable to work and in chronic pain.
2. Lost Wages
Before the date of the accident, Plaintiff Rowzie was actively employed as a school nurse. Attached hereto is a copy of her resume as Exhibit “G.” As of the date of this accident, Plaintiff Rowzie intended to return to work in the fall of 2012. She was a science teacher at her daughter’s private school in Glenelg, Maryland. However, she has been unable to work since the date of this accident. She had a Vocational Rehabilitation Study performed which did indicate that she is unable to return to work as a nurse. See attach
ed here as Exhibit “H” the February 23, 2014 report of Karla Alberti, PT of Rehab at Work.
Plaintiff Rowzie intends to call as an expert Thomas C. Borzilleri, an economist who will testify as to her future loss of earning capacity and loss of benefits. Attached here is Dr. Borzilleri’s report indicating that the loss she will incur as a result of being unemployable for the remainder of her working lifespan would be in the range of $578,059 to $957,811. See attached hereto Exhibit “I.”
The total maximum exposure to the Defendants in this matter may be as follows:
|1.||Past Medical Expenses||$ 101,534.52|
|2.||Future Medical Expenses||$ 375,000.00|
|3.||Past Lost Wages||$ 38,100.00|
|4.||Past Lost Wages||$ 38,100.00|
The noneconomic damages cap in Maryland for the year of this accident is $665,000 for a total potential maximum exposure of $2,137,445.52.
2. The Weaknesses of Each Side’s Case:
a. Weakness in Plaintiff’s Case.
The weakness in the Plaintiff’s case really has nothing to do with the case itself, but is more related to the misconceptions that jurors may have regarding cases where there is minimal visible property damage. Plaintiff’s counsel is well aware of the conservative jury pools that are drawn into the court systems, and the biases that accompany most juries on a minimal impact case.
However, at the end of the day this case will come down to the credibility of Plaintiff. She reeks credibility. She was regularly employed before the date of this accident and lived a healthy and active lifestyle. There are no prior complaints of pain in her lower back that the Defendants will be able to point to, nor has the Plaintiff ever had any prior or subsequent accidents or claims including her lower back.
As the Court will see at the mediation, Sandy Rowzie is very articulate and likeable. She will be able to describe a dramatic difference between her life as it existed before the accident and her life now. The life that Plaintiff lives now is not one that anyone would undertake voluntarily. She is incapable of working at a job she loved due to the chronic pain that she is in, coupled with the extensive list of medications that she is taking, rendering her unable to safely operate a vehicle to and from any job. It may be beneficial for your Honor to spend some time with Sandy in order to make an independent assessment as to the credibility of her testimony and likeability before a jury.
b. The Weaknesses of Defendant’s Side
It is unlikely that the Defendants will prevail on the issue of liability as this is a rearend accident case. More likely than not, the issues being discussed by the jury will be damages. The Defendants had Plaintiff examined by an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Rosen, who has provided his opinions which are attached hereto in two reports identified as Exhibit “J.”
The first weakness perceived by Plaintiff’s counsel is that Dr. Rosen will not be able to testify with respect to his opinions regarding any conclusions which involve mental disorders or addiction issues. Dr. Rosen is only qualified to render opinions regarding orthopedic findings and will not be qualified to render any opinions regarding any psychological component to her claim or any opinions regarding any addiction issues. However, assuming Plaintiff’s counsel is wrong, and the trial court allows the defense to raise the issue of narcotic dependency, malingering, and/or any psychological component, it may very well backfire on the Defendants as there is absolutely zero evidence of any pre-existing addiction issues or psychological problems. If the “injury” that was sustained by Plaintiff Rowzie as a result of this accident is that they created a psychological problem and/or addiction problem, a jury, if they like her, may very well consider that part of her damages and compensate her for that.
3. Evaluation of the Maximum and Minimum Damage Awards Likely:
Plaintiff’s counsel believes that under a worst case scenario the jury would find the Defendants’ negligent and may award Plaintiff her past medical expenses of $100,000 and some nominal amount for her pain and suffering.
As to the maximum damages award that is possible, if the jury likes Plaintiff and compensates her for all of her economic losses, past medical expenses, past lost wages, future lost wages, and future loss of earning capacity, the exposure could be in excess of $2,000,000. That is before the cap on damages. During the year of her accident, her non-economic damages cap is $665,000.
1. The History of Settlement Negotiations to Date:
The parties have not exchanged any demands or offers prior to the mediation in this matter. However, Plaintiffs would be willing to make an initial demand of $1,500,000.00. We hope good faith begets good faith in this regard.
2. Estimate of Attorney’s fees and Costs of Litigation:
The attorney’s fees in this case will be on a 40% contingency basis and are not incurred until settlement or judgment in Plaintiff’s favor. The expenses of litigation to date are approximately $4,300. Plaintiff anticipates that the cost of litigation through trial for expenses may increase into the range of $14,000. It is anticipated that the experts will cost an additional $30,000 in addition to other expenses associated with litigating this matter in court. These costs do not concern the Plainitff or her counsel.
3. The Name and Position/Title of the Individuals Who Will Be Attending the Conference:
The attendees at the mediation will include Ronald V. MillerLaura G. Zois, on behalf of Miller & Zois, LLC, Sandra Rowzie, Plaintiff and her husband, David Rowzie.
I look forward to seeing Your Honor on June 1, 2014. If you have any questions before the mediation, please do not hesitate to ask.
Very truly yours,
Miller & Zois, LLC
Laura G. Zois
Empire Towers, Suite 1001
7310 Ritchie Highway
Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061
(410) 760-8922 (fax)