J. Kent Emison, founding member of the personal injury law firm Langdon & Emison, was honored during the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys’ annual banquet with the Thomas G. Strong Trial Attorney Award last night. The award was conceived to honor the Missouri attorney who best exemplifies the qualities of professionalism, ethics, character and courtroom success.
A Lafayette County, Mo., jury awarded $200,000 to client Cheryl Westerman for injuries sustained in a car crash. The defendant, Barbara Shogren, admitted fault for causing the September 12, 2008 crash. State Farm Insurance, who covered the driver with a $100,000 policy, had several chances to protect its customer and settle the conflict without subjecting her to the risks of trial. However, State Farm instead chose to place its own interests in front of its insured and offered only $25,000.
and led the Langdon & Emison trial team in this matter. Westerman and her husband were heading to a Friday matinee movie in Lexington, Missouri when the Shogren vehicle turned left in front of them, causing the crash. Westerman refused treatment from medical personnel at the scene, but suffered enough pain over the weekend that she immediately saw her primary care physician on Monday. Westerman’s treating physicians diagnosed her as having a cervical neck strain. Ms. Westerman also claimedpermanent knee injury. Following the crash, Westerman treated with her primary care physician and a neurosurgeon for her neck injury.
At trial, Westerman’s legal team proved that the crash caused significant injuries that required future care and treatment. Dr. Garth Russell, an orthopedic surgeon, testified that Westerman’s injuries were permanent and would require lifelong care – including epidural steroid injections and the possibility of neck surgery. Sheryl Bunce, a certified life care planner, testified regarding the costs of future care and treatment.
Counsel for Westerman offered an extensive life care plan calling for future care, though Westerman had not received substantial treatment following the crash. Over two and a half years, Westerman received 24 physical therapy treatments and had medical bills of around $10,000. Under the decision, the parties agreed to a stipulated exhibit informing the jury that $10,305 had been billed for past medical expenses, but only $2,765.54 had been paid.
“It is often difficult to prove causation and damages in soft tissue cases, particularly with an older client,” Emison said. “Defendants often point to natural degenerative changes that we all get as we age as a pre-existing condition and cause of the injury. In this case, the defense tried very hard to convince the jury that Mrs. Westerman’s injuries were the result of her age and pre-dated the crash. However, we were able to present excellent medical testimony refuting each of the pre-existing sources of injury raised by the defendant. Our experts and Mrs. Westerman’s treating doctors confirmed that her injuries were caused by this crash.”