May 2012

Venue: Buchanan County

Case Number/Date: 10BU-CV05699/May 9, 2012

Judge: Patrick Robb

Caption: Christian Tanner v. Donna Staggs and Farmer’s Insurance Company

Insurer: Progressive Insurance for Donna Staggs; Farmer’s Insurance for underinsured motorist coverage

Plaintiff’s Attorney: James Montee, Montee Law Firm, P.C., St. Joseph

Defendants’ Attorneys: Todd Barrett, Harris McCausland, P.C., Kansas City for Donna Staggs; Dennis Davidson, Abbott, Davidson & Southard for Farmer’s Insurance Company

Plaintiff’s Expert: William Hopkins, Prairie Village, KS (orthopedic); Gregory Bedynek, St. Joseph (neurosurgery)

Mediator: William H. Sanders, Jr.

Plaintiff overcomes liability and causation issues and settled his auto accident for the defendant’s policy limit of $50,000 plus $100,000 from his own underinsured motorist coverage.

In May 2007, Christian Tanner, age 37, sought medical treatment with a two to the three-month history of progressive neck pain. Tanner reported left-sided radiculopathy without neurological impairment. A cervical MRI on May 8, 2007, showed a herniated disk at C5-6 and to a lesser extent at C6-7. Dr. Bedynek, the neurosurgeon, offered surgery (two-level fusion). Christian declined surgery and was referred to the pain clinic for epidurals. After epidurals, Christian reported complete resolution of all neck complaints and canceled any follow-up with Dr. Bedynek. Christian resumed his work for the next three years as a nurse on an ambulance crew for Heartland Hospital.

On September 9, 2010, Christian Tanner was driving to work eastbound on Frederick Street in St. Joseph, Missouri. A 1996 Chevrolet Monza driven by Donna Staggs turned westbound from the northbound I-29 Highway off-ramp and collided with Tanner’s Ford Explorer. Tanner’s vehicle sustained significant front-end damage. Tanner was wearing his shoulder and lap belt. The airbag did not deploy. Both drivers claimed they had a green light and no independent witnesses were present.

On the day of the accident, Tanner reported electrical shock sensations such as tingling pain shooting down both arms with any motion of his cervical spine. A cervical MRI on the day of the accident revealed conditions far more severe than the 2007 MRI. The new MRI showed significant changes at C4-5 and C6-7 with a slight change at C5-6. The next week Tanner was screened at Heartland Neurosurgery and a week later was seen by Dr. Bedynek who offered a four-level neck fusion surgery. Tanner agreed with the surgical option and Dr. Bedynek performed the surgery on October 24, 2010, at Heartland Hospital.

Tanner had original medical charges of $68,000 and missed approximately six weeks of work with an estimated lost income of $4,752. Tanner settled his claim against driver Donna Staggs for her policy coverage of $50,000 plus $100,000 from his own underinsured motorist coverage.