Joe Petka Obtains Defense Verdict in a PTSD Case

A Philadelphia jury deliberated less than an hour before entering a defense verdict on factual cause in the case of a woman who alleged post-traumatic stress disorder after being involved in an accident while eight months pregnant.

The plaintiff’s claims arose out of an accident in which defendant turned in front of a SEPTA Trolley, causing a collision which shattered the defendant’s windows, crushed his rear door, and caused his air bags to deploy.

The plaintiff, who was a passenger on the trolley, struck her stomach on a pole, and began to experience contractions. She was removed from the scene to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and admitted overnight to labor and delivery.

After being discharged from the hospital, plaintiff returned to the emergency room a day later with back pain. She then presented to an outpatient physical rehabilitation facility and completed a seven month course of physical therapy, and also treated a psychiatrist for post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the accident.

At the trial the plaintiff testified that she continues to have frequent low back pain from the accident and that she continues to suffer from emotional problems as a result of believing that her “baby had died” in the impact. The plaintiff called a psychiatrist to testify regarding plaintiff’s post-traumatic stress disorder and a chiropractor to testify about her physical injuries.

Mr. Petka stipulated to negligence on behalf of the defendant and argued that the plaintiff’s post-accident behavior suggested that she was not injured in the accident. Specifically, on cross-examination, the plaintiff admitted that she did not miss any time from work; her child was born healthy; she never reported the accident to her OB/GYN; she treated almost exclusively with a chiropractor; she had normal diagnostic tests; she had a normal IME examination; and she admitted to doing the P90X workout at the same time she was alleging to have been in significant pain.

With regard to the PTSD claim, Mr. Petka cross-examined the psychiatrist on the fact that the plaintiff’s psychological treatment did not occur until over 3 years after the accident and that when he rendered his opinion, the psychiatrist was unaware of several other potentially traumatic events that occurred during the same pregnancy, such as fist fights and falling down the stairs.

The 12 person jury agreed with Mr. Petka’s argument, and found that no factual cause existed.