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Challenge to expert testimony regarding head injury and back problems is rejected

Youssef Salman sued Amica Mutual Insurance Company for Personal Injury Protection benefits after he was injured in a car accident.  He claimed that he had suffered spinal cord and head injuries that resulted in the need for extensive attendant care.  At trial, he presented the testimony of several doctors, including appropriate specialists who had conducted physical examinations and provided treatment.  The jury accepted their testimony and awarded Salman $160,000.00 in benefits.  The insurer appealed arguing that the expert testimony was inadequate to support either a head injury diagnosis, or that the spinal cord problems were trauma-related and not simply degenerative.

The Court of Appeals noted that the plaintiff's experts were fully qualified to offer the opinions that they testified to, and there was adequate foundation for their opinions in the record.  Therefore, the weight to be given their testimony--relative to the IME testimony of the insurer--was a question to be determined by the jury.  While the medical chart and some of the testimony was not entirely consistent, that was an issue for the jury's sound discretion and not a matter of exclusion.

The Court also held that the family was not disqualified from collecting attendant care benefits because it did not prepare contemporaneous billings for a specified dollar amount.  As long as there was a "reasonable expectation of payment" when the services were provided, it was not inappropriate for the family to "reconstruct" the care it gave to the injured person after the fact.  While such later-created records carry a risk of credibility that must be weighed and considered by the fact-finder, they are not inherently unreliable if supported by credible evidence.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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