Court of Appeals reinstates auto negligence claim by man who suffered fractured ribs, punctured lung and back pain.
Kevin Wallace was rear-ended at a red light by Betty Carol Nance-Bacan. Among other injuries, he suffered fractured ribs and a punctured lung. He was hospitalized initially for a week and weeks later needed to return to the hospital E.R. to drain fluid from his lungs. He also required extensive physical therapy and chiropractic visits for back and neck pain.
At his deposition, Mr. Wallace testified extensively about the impact of the injuries on his normal lifestyle. He listed numerous activities he could no longer participate in and restrictions imposed by his physicians. Nevertheless, the Defendants sought summary disposition, arguing that his injuries did not constitute a "serious impairment of bodily function." The Defendants filed Wallace's deposition, giving the Court an accurate picture of the impact of Wallace's injuries.
After a change of docket judges, the Plaintiff's attorney sought from the wrong judge an extension of time in which to file a response. The judge who heard the argument refused to honor the verbal extension and explained that he "automatically" grants summary disposition when no timely answer is filed. The Plaintiff's attorney sought an opportunity for rehearing, which the judge denied. Wallace's attorneys then filed an appeal.
The Court of Appeals held that even without a response from Wallace, his deposition filed by the Defendants was adequate to preclude the grant of summary disposition by the lower court. The appelate judges ruled that there was adequate evidence of the impact of Wallace's injuries in the record to create a jury question regarding "serious impairment of bodily function" and the dismissal was overturned.