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Spinal Surgery Spoils NY Woman's Lawsuit

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on August 03, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Spinal surgery has caused a New York woman to lose a personal injury lawsuit. A judge ruled that her elective surgery actually destroyed evidence in a case related to alleged injuries from a car accident.

Susanna Mangione was involved in a car accident in 2009 while riding in a taxi cab. She sued both the cab driver and the driver of the other car for her injuries, but her suit was thrown out of court on Tuesday.

This issue had not previously been considered in New York, according to Justice Charles Markey, so the facts are especially important for determining future application.

The problem for Mangione is that she elected to have the surgery rather than attending a court-ordered independent medical examination.

In the case of emergency or life-saving surgery the standard might be different but there is no evidence of that here, Markey wrote in his decision. Mangione had the opportunity to notify the court of the surgery or to put it off until after the independent medical examination.

She had also failed to go to any of the three court-ordered appointments, according to Reuters.

To prove her claim of "serious injury" caused by the accident, Mangione would have to show that she had suffered significant harm from the collision. Her surgery effectively destroyed evidence of her existing back condition by changing her physical state.

The surgery made it impossible for defendants to independently verify any of the medical issues Mangione claims she suffered. She effectively blocked them from fully arguing their side of the case.

For that, the court determined that the lawsuit can't go forward.

In any car accident dispute, it's important to document any damage or injury as soon as possible and keep good records. Getting more than one doctor's opinion can provide valuable evidence of an injury.

The case appears to hinge on the fact that surgery was elective and that Mangione had opportunities to submit to an independent medical evaluation before the scheduled surgery. For future lawsuits where plaintiffs are considering surgery, that might be something to think about.

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