United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
J. PAPPERT, J.
Liberty was injured in a motor vehicle accident. Because he
selected the “limited tort” option on his
insurance, he can recover noneconomic damages only if his
injuries are considered “serious” under
Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility
Law. Defendant State Farm has moved for summary judgment,
contending that Liberty's persistent neck injury is not
serious as that term is defined in the statute. Because
reasonable minds could differ on this question, the Court
denies State Farm's motion.
Liberty, a plumber's apprentice, was driving to work on
May 30, 2014 when another car struck his car from
behind. (Pl.'s Ex. E, at 30:11-13, 14:18, ECF
No. 13-5, hereafter “Liberty Dep.”) His car was
totaled. (Id. at 36:13-14.) Liberty did not lose
consciousness, sustain any cuts or abrasions, or experience
any bruising as a result of the collision. (Id.
he did not need medical attention at the accident scene,
Liberty went to Holy Redeemer Hospital a few hours later
because his eyes were unusually dilated. (Id.
36:1-5, 41:1- 24.) The hospital released Liberty the same
day, attributing his dilated eyes to whiplash and adrenaline,
and diagnosed him with contusions and sprains. (Id.
at 42:3-7; Pl.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 13-1.) The next day,
Liberty had pain in his neck, lower back, right knee and
right ankle. (Liberty Dep. at 40:10-14.)
sought treatment from Dr. Gruzin at Temple Medical
Associates. (Id. at 50- 51:15.) Liberty received
physical therapy and chiropractic treatments two to three
times a week between June 5 and November 3, 2014.
(Id. 52:14-23; 54:8-12.) The treatments healed his
ankle, knee and back, but he continued to have problems with
his neck. (Id. 55:17-56:12.) Liberty had an MRI that
revealed bulging discs at ¶ 5-6 and C6-7, which Dr.
Gruzin attributed to the accident. (Id. at
58:22-59:5; Pl's Ex. C, at 1.)
his treatment with Dr. Gruzin, Liberty began seeing Dr. Susan
Moses, a chiropractor, on an as needed basis. (Id.
at 60:8-19; 61:21-62:2.) Liberty explained that his neck
becomes very tight, to the point at which he cannot move it.
(Id. at 62:19-21.) When this occurs, treatment from
Dr. Moses provides temporary relief. As of Liberty's
deposition on July 25, 2016, he continued to experience pain
in his neck. When his neck is in a spasm, his pain level is a
10 on a 0 to 10 point scale. (Id. at 64:23.) When
not in a spasm, his neck is “annoying” and
“throbbing nonstop, ” (id. at 64:7-8.),
and his pain level is a 7 on the same scale. (Id. at
life activities have changed since his injury. He is limited
in his ability to help his wife care for their newborn child.
(Id. at 71:9-13.) Liberty is also unable to crawl on
the floor and play with his children like he used to before
the accident. (Id. at 69:17-19; 72:7-11.) While he
is able to work, (id. at 70:18-19), his boss is
aware of his injury and assigns him smaller work
“rather than the heavier stuff, ” (id.
at 16:8-10). When driving, Liberty is unable to turn his head
and must instead turn his whole body. (Id. at
71:3-5.) Finally, Liberty can no longer do what he calls
“extreme workouts, ” like P90X and Insanity.
(Id. at 67:20-22.)
sued State Farm on May 10, 2016 in the Philadelphia Court of
Common Pleas. State Farm removed the case to this Court on
May 17, 2016 and filed an answer three days later.
See (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) On November 3, 2016 State
Farm filed its motion for summary judgment, (ECF No. 12), and
Liberty responded to the motion on November 23, 2016, (ECF
judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material
fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Smathers v. Multi-Tool,
Inc./Multi-Plastics, Inc. Emp. Health & Welfare
Plan, 298 F.3d 191, 194 (3d Cir. 2002); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material
fact exists when “a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A mere
scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party will
not suffice; there must be evidence by which a jury could
reasonably find for the non-moving party. Id. at
252. Summary judgment is appropriate where “the
nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an
essential element of her case with respect to which she has
the burden of proof.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
reviewing the record, a court “must view the facts in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all
inferences in that party's favor.” Prowel v.
Wise Bus. Forms, 579 F.3d 285, 286 (3d Cir. 2009). The
court may not, however, make credibility determinations or
weigh the evidence in considering motions for summary
judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods.,
530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); see also Goodman v. Pa. Tpk.
Comm'n, 293 F.3d 655, 665 (3d Cir. 2002).