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Currence v. Hastings

Superior Court of Delaware, Sussex

April 16, 2014

Brenda Currence
v.
Aerin Hastings & Chase Martin

Submitted: March 28, 2014

Edward C. Gill, Esquire, Daniel P. Bennett, Esquire

Dear Counsel:

In June 2013 Aerin Hastings ("Defendant") filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant argues that she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Brenda Currence ("Plaintiff") executed a release with Defendant's insurance carrier, extinguishing Plaintiff's right to pursue litigation against Defendant. Plaintiff opposed the Motion because there had not been an opportunity for discovery. With the benefit of discovery and additional briefing by the parties, the matter is now ripe for a decision. This is the Court's decision finding that the release executed by the Plaintiff bars her lawsuit, and therefore summary judgment is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND[1]

On November 29, 2011 a motor vehicle collision occurred in Seaford, Delaware wherein Defendant's vehicle rear ended the vehicle operated by Plaintiff. The police report notes that the Officer "observed both vehicles and due to heavy rain, I was unable to see any visible damage to either vehicle. It is my opinion that if there is any damage to either vehicle, it is of a minor nature." Later it is noted "Vehicle two operator [Plaintiff] complained of having possible pain in her neck, but refused for an ambulance to respond to the scene. No other injuries reported."

Later that same day, Plaintiff reported to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Emergency Room. The time on the hospital records was 5:37 p.m. Plaintiff complained of neck pain, lower back pain, and pain going down her left arm and neck. After a CT Scan was performed, Plaintiff was released with a diagnosis of cervical sprain and back sprain.

On December 15, 2011 Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Joseph P. Olekezyk, an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, who saw her for a number of pre-existing medical issues. She reported experiencing migraines as a result of her whiplash injury.

On January 19, 2012 Plaintiff saw Dr. Kennedy Yalamanchili ("Dr. Yalamanchili") at Delaware Neurosurgical Group in Newark, Delaware. He noted "the patient returns after an extended absence with complaint of progressively worsening neck pain following a motor vehicle accident on November 29, 2011." He further notes "she reports she has been having progressively worsening neck pain mainly in the posterior aspect that radiates to her upper thoracic area around her left shoulder blade and sometimes to the anterior left side of her rib cage. She also reports significant left sided shoulder pain with intermittent sharp shooting pain down the left side of her upper extremity. She reports significant numbness that is constant in her left hand in all fingers." He further notes "she reported excellent recovery from a prior lumber fusion surgery in May 2010." An MRI was ordered for further evaluation of her progressively worsening cervical conditions. On January 25, 2012 the MRI was performed.

On February 6, 2012 Plaintiff returned to Dr. Yalamanchili. His report notes that she has a "history of cervical disk disease though she reports an automobile accident that occurred in November seem[s] to aggravate her symptoms." Noteworthy, the report stated "she reports she recently has accepted a settlement for her accident although as yet the full injury has yet to be determined."

During the above period of time when Plaintiff saw her doctors and reported her progressively worsening pain, she was also in communication with Defendant's insurance claims adjuster. That adjuster executed an affidavit containing the following:

(a) On December 15, 2011 the adjuster and Plaintiff spoke. Plaintiff indicated she wanted her claim settled as soon as possible.
(b) On January 10, 2013 another conversation took place with Plaintiff who threatened to go to an attorney if her claim was not settled soon.
(c) On January 27, 2012 the adjuster reviewed the company's file and entered into settlement negotiations with Plaintiff. Plaintiff demanded $1, 500.00 for settlement of her claim. The adjuster counter offered at $1, 350.00. Plaintiff stayed at $1, 500.00. The parties agreed ...

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