A jury awarded more than $16 million to a woman who claimed that she injured her spine in a motor-vehicle accident in Jacksonville.
On Dec. 15, 2018, plaintiff Jessica Long, 26, a retail store’s employee, was driving on Interstate 295, near its interchange at State Road 21, in Jacksonville. Her vehicle’s rear end was struck by a trailing car that was being driven by Virjona Gjuraj. Long claimed that she suffered injuries of her back and neck.
Long sued Gjuraj and the owner of Gjuraj’s vehicle, Violeta Gjuraj. Long also sued her own insurer, The Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Co., a division of Travelers Property Casualty Corp. The lawsuit alleged that Virjona Gjuraj was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. The lawsuit further alleged that Violeta Gjuraj was vicariously liable for Virjona Gjuraj’s actions. Travelers Home and Marine Insurance was pursued for underinsured-motorist benefits.
Long’s counsel negotiated a settlement of the claims against Violeta Gjuraj and Virjona Gjuraj. Terms were not disclosed. Travelers Home and Marine Insurance conceded liability. The matter proceeded to a trial that addressed damages against the insurer.
After four days had passed, Long visited a doctor. Long claimed that she was suffering pain related to the accident. She was referred for further treatment.
Long ultimately claimed that she suffered herniations of her C4-5, C5-6, C6-7 and L5-S1 intervertebral discs. She claimed that she developed residual impingement of a spinal nerve and resultant radiculopathy. She further claimed that her spine’s C2-3, C3-4 and C6-7 levels developed spondylolisthesis, which involved displacement of vertebrae. She also claimed that she suffered residual headaches.
Long underwent about four months of physical therapy, and she claimed that she subsequently performed about four months of independent therapeutic exercises. She later underwent further physical therapy, which lasted about five weeks, and a pain-management regimen, which involved ablation of problematic spinal nerves and administration of painkilling trigger-point injections.
Long claimed that she suffers daily residual pain and headaches. She also claimed that she suffers chronic residual tiredness. She claimed that she greatly enjoys visiting amusement parks, but that her pain does not allow her to utilize the parks’ rides. She further claimed that she previously enjoyed hiking, but that her pain prevents her resumption of that activity. She is scheduled to undergo an arthroplasty, which would involve replacement of her C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7 intervertebral discs, and she claimed that she requires further physical therapy and ablation procedures.
Long sought recovery of past and future medical expenses, and she sought recovery of damages for past and future pain and suffering.
The defense contended that Long exaggerated the extent of her injuries. The defense noted that Long did not undergo any doctor-administered treatment of her back or neck during the four months that followed her initial course of physical therapy, and the defense also noted that contemporaneous medical records indicated that Long reported that her back and neck were not problematic.
During the trial, Judge Katie Dearing ruled that Long suffers a permanent injury related to the accident.
The jury determined that Long’s damages totaled $16,433,352.80, but Long recovered the insurance coverage’s limit: $100,000.
Case Jessica Long v. Virjona Gjuraj, Violeta Gjuraj and the Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company, No. 16-2019-CA-007458-XXXX-MA
Court Duval County Circuit Court, 4th
Judge Katie Dearing
Plaintiff Attorneys: Nicolas Iannucci; Morgan & Morgan, P.A.; Jacksonville, FL Eric “Rick” Block; Morgan & Morgan, P.A.; Jacksonville, FL Brandi A. Gartrell; Morgan & Morgan, P.A.; Jacksonville, FL
Defense Attorneys: Robert E. O’Quinn Jr.; Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A.; Jacksonville, for Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Co.) None reported for Violeta Gjuraj, Virjona Gjuraj
Jessica Long award breakdown:
$131,293.30 past medical cost
$4,533,985 future medical cost
$451,249.50 past pain suffering
$11,316,825 future pain suffering
$16,433,352.80 plaintiff’s total award
Demand: $500,000 (from Travelers Home and Marine Insurance [insurance coverage’s limit: $100,000])
Offer: $100,000 (by Travelers Home and Marine Insurance)
Insurer: Travelers Property Casualty Corp.
Trial Details Trial Length 2 Days
Trial Deliberations 70 Minutes
Jury Vote 6-0
Jury Composition 2 male, 4 female
Plaintiff Experts: Mark Frisk M.D., radiology, Jacksonville Beach, FL Joseph Shaughnessy M.D., family medicine, Orange Park, FL (treating doctor; videotaped deposition presented) Ross Sherban D.O., orthopedic surgery, Stuart, FL (treating doctor) Michael Willens D.O., pain management, Jacksonville, FL (treating doctor)
Defense Experts: None reported