Second trial opens in Edwardsville rear-end case

Amelia Flood May 19, 2009, 11:31am

Less than an hour before close of business at the Madison County Courthouse, a jury was selected in a re-trial of a 2004 Edwardsville rear-end negligence case.

The trial was supposed to open Monday but was held up by pre-trial motions.

Plaintiff attorney Rodney Caffey and defense counsel Stephen Mudge gave abbreviated opening statements to jurors before Caffey called to the stand a neurosurgeon who operated on his client, Walter Spearman, after the 2002 crash.

The trial will continue Wednesday.

This is the second time around for the case Spearman v. Sunley in Madison County.

Spearman originally sued Michael Sunley in 2004 for two herniated discs he suffered when Sunley rear-ended him. The original jury awarded Spearman about $62,000 for his past medical bills. It did not award damages for pain, suffering, disfigurement or future medical costs. Spearman's then attorney moved for a new trial. The motion was denied by then-Madison Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron. Spearman appealed.

The appellate court found that the jury's verdict had been inconsistent and it overruled Byron. It ordered the case to have a new trial on the subject of damages only.

In his opening statement, Caffey described the case as one of "reality versus fantasy," pointing to those words projected in a PowerPoint presentation. He said that he and Spearman's doctors would prove that he had ongoing pain and had lost his normal life due to his injuries.

Mudge countered that the defense would show that Spearman's injuries, though caused by the crash, have not changed or impacted his life in the fashion argued by Caffey. He said that the testimony the jury would hear would likely conflict with that given by Spearman and other witnesses in earlier depositions.

Madison Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth is presiding.

The case is Madison case number 04-L-007.

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