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Dental Hygienist awarded $295,000 for Cervical Strain After Allstate Offers Nothing


A 42 year-old former dental hygienist has been awarded $295,609.91 for permanent neck and shoulder pain caused by a 1992 automobile collision. Mary Beth Kwain injured her neck on November 18, 1992, when defendant, Laurie Walent, turned left out of the parking lot of an Oak Lawn Dominick's store onto 87th Street. Kwain, driving on 87th Street, slammed on her brakes, but could not avoid Walent when Walent crossed into Kwain's lane. The front left corner of Kwain's car smashed into the driver's side of Walent's car.

Kenneth T. Lumb and Daniel S. Kirschner of Corboy & Demetrio proved during the four day trial that Mary Beth Kwain's neck pain was debilitating and permanent, despite the argument of the defense expert, Dr. Boone Brackett, that cervical strain heals within six weeks.

Kwain, a licensed dental hygienist, was not working at the time of the collision in order to spend time with her new baby. She returned to work full-time in 1995 but was unable to perform as a dental hygienist, because the necessary motions and positioning aggravated her neck and shoulder. The jury awarded $150,000.00 for the difference in income between her current job in sales and what she could earn as a dental hygienist.

Brackett testified that there was no connection between any current pain and the collision eight years ago. He also claimed that Kwain should not have been treated by any doctor for more than two weeks after the collision. Plaintiff presented the testimony of a treating neurologist and two treating chiropractors who all agreed that Kwain suffered permanent injuries, manifested by trigger points and muscle spasms, and caused by the collision.

According to attorney Ken Lumb:

"This verdict is a direct result of the unreasonable and inflexible posture insurers are taking on so-called 'soft-tissue' cases. Allstate offered $15,000.00 several years ago and then withdrew the offer, even though Mary Beth's medical bills were more than that."

Defendant's policy limits are $100,000, which plaintiff had demanded years ago and remained willing to accept. According to Lumb, Allstate contacted him the night of the verdict to discuss the possibility of settling for the $100,000.00 policy limits. In response, Lumb quoted the famous line of the World War II Commander of the U.S. forces in Bastogne, Anthony McAullife. Surrounded by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, McAullife responded to a German demand for surrender by simply stating: "Nuts."

Added attorney Dan Kirschner:

"Allstate took an unreasonable position and refused to budge. In doing so, it put its insured at risk for a verdict in excess of the policy limits."

Cook County Circuit Judge Leonard Levin presided over the trial, which ended on July 10, 2001.

Walent was represented by Edward Ordonez and Christopher Welch of Sanchez & Daniels.

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