Verdict for Connecticut State Trooper Underinsured Motorist

Jury Gives Trooper $527K For Neck Injuries
Officer needed spinal surgery, internal hardware after crash

March 9, 2009

Darren Perillo v. Eric Jacobs, State of Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety: A Connecticut state trooper was awarded more than $527,000 after an accident that left him with a badly injured neck.

Trooper Darren Perillo was driving on Route 1 in East Haven, when another motorist pulled onto the road and, Perillo contended, cut in front of his cruiser. The impact crushed the front of the cruiser, and caused injuries that were difficult to quickly diagnose.

After a few weeks of recuperation from the April 2006 collision, Perillo returned to light duty work, and even went back to playing softball. By August, his teammates were criticizing him for not being able to hit a ball out of the infield. Perillo’s lawyer, Jason McCoy of Vernon, said: “After one of the games he was having difficulty holding his sports bag over his head. He couldn’t really do it with his right arm.”

The first neurosurgeon he saw diagnosed him with nerve impingement which could be treated with physical therapy.Perillo sought a second opinion from Dr. Gary M. Bloomgarden, of Woodbridge, who ordered an MRI scan, which showed a herniated disc. In February 2007, Perillo began joint injections of anesthetics, which eased his pain but did not eliminate the problem.

The next step was a big one. Spinal surgery was recommended, which required removal of a disc, going in from the front. “They cut your throat, move your esophagus to the side, they take out the disc,” said McCoy. “Then they put in a piece of plastic, and screw a piece side of metal from one vertebrae to another vertebrae.” Perillo required 20 weeks to recover from the surgery, and began physical therapy to regain arm and chest strength. Demonstrative Aid by High Impact Graphics.

McCoy explained that arrest subjects often ride in the passenger seat, and the trooper’s right arm is not only his “weapon hand,” it’s also closest to the person being transported.

Having full use of his right arm was important, McCoy said. The driver of the other vehicle in the accident had a $20,000 insurance policy, which was tendered in full. At that point, the state of Connecticut became the liability defendant for the underinsured portion of the claim. Perillo had $1 million in coverage under the state’s self-insured uninsured motorist policy.
The trooper had collected $30,000 in workers’ compensation payments from the state. Early in the case, the state contended that it should not have to pay those, alleging that Perillo was driving too fast or following too closely.

McCoy, in pretrial negotiations, made a demand for $370,000. The state, defended by Ronald D. Williams Jr., of Williams, Cooney & Sheehy in Trumbull, offered $200,000 before trial.

Good Defense McCoy, of the McCoy Law Firm in Vernon, is also the town’s mayor. He was politic in his comments about Williams’ defense work. “The defense attorney did a pretty good job with the issue of speeding, contending it was our guy’s fault and that he wasn’t hurt,” said
McCoy. But the defense case was hurt by an investigation by the state police which found that Perillo was not speeding, and even though it was a rear-end collision, he was not at fault.

Also, McCoy maintains, the defense was not helped by the testimony of one of its witnesses. Orthopedic surgeon Andrew N. Bazos did a review of Perillo’s medical records but never examined him. “Dr. Andrew Bezos said it wasn’t a herniation, and that no reasonable
person would say the surgery was related to the accident. The trooper had, the year before, some chiropractic [work done]. It was maintenance stuff, from sitting in his car too long. That was a big deal with the defense. The defendants’ expert said the MRI didn’t look
like a herniation,” jason mccoy‘>McCoy said.
But, according to comments from the jury after the trial, Bezos was unconvincing because his testimony was so absolute about gray medical areas, McCoy said. In answers to other questions, such as whether he had ever met Perillo before, Bezos equivocated, which also did not help him with jurors, McCoy said.

Williams argued that Perillo’s back pain was pre-existing, and noted that he had been treating with a chiropractor for 22 visits six months before the crash.

“The big issue was whether the herniated disc, for which Trooper Perillo underwent the fusion, was related to the accident,” Williams said. “He was treated by a chiropractor for about three months. He tried to minimize it. The records were destroyed in a flood. He said the neck pain [requiring the chiropractic sessions] spontaneously came on.”

After a three-day trial before New Haven Superior Court Judge John F. Cronan, the jury returned a $555,505 verdict for Perillo on Feb. 2. It was reduced by about $28,000 on a finding of 5 percent negligence on Perillo’s part. His economic damages were about $115,500. Pain and suffering damages were $440,000.

The litigants are currently disputing whether $190,000 in past payouts to Perillo should be subtracted from the verdict, or from his $1 million state uninsured motorist policy.

Of the $440,000 in noneconomic damages, Williams said: “It’s hard to say whether that’s high or not. He has a lot of metal hardware on his spine, so that’s worth some money.”

The trooper made a good impression at trial, Williams noted: “He was a nice guy, I’ll say that. I gave him a hearty handshake and a hug when he won. I’m a good sport.”•


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