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David H. Sharp v. Socrates Steriotis

December 13, 2010

DAVID H. SHARP, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
SOCRATES STERIOTIS, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. L-4297-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued November 9, 2010 - Decided Before Judges Graves and Messano.

Plaintiff David H. Sharp appeals from the grant of summary judgment to defendant Socrates Steriotis. We have considered the arguments plaintiff raises in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We affirm.

At approximately 8:25 a.m. on July 7, 2006, defendant's car struck plaintiff, who was sixteen years old, as he rode his bicycle on Route 70 in Cherry Hill.*fn1 Plaintiff was covered under an automobile insurance policy that contained the limitation on lawsuit option, N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8(a) (the LOL).

On July 17, plaintiff was seen by Dr. Gary Neil Goldstein, M.D., a plastic and orthopedic surgeon and plaintiff's primary physician. Goldstein's impression was that plaintiff suffered "[m]ultiple contusions and ecchymoses," "[i]nternal derangement of the right knee," and "[d]ental trauma."

The injuries to plaintiff's teeth were treated by a number of dentists. One tooth suffered a "slight enamel fracture," four others suffered "concussion trauma" that required "composite bonding," and one tooth was extracted and replaced with an implant. Mark Waltzer, D.M.D., detailed these injuries and treatments in his report of June 10, 2008. Waltzer noted,

Although active treatment is concluded, nothing will last indefinitely. Crowns generally have a life expectancy of 5-15 years. Composite bonding generally lasts 3-10 years. In an active young man, it is probably closer to the shorter end of the range. There is a possibility that root canal therapy, composite bonding, and/or crowns will be needed later . . . . Plaintiff subsequently developed a "dark area at the mesiogingival of tooth #7." Waltzer believed this was likely an "abfraction lesion," the result of "the initial trauma." He recommended that the situation be monitored.

Plaintiff continued to experience pain in his right knee and consulted Marc L. Kahn, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon. In February 2009, Kahn diagnosed plaintiff with "[i]nternal derangement [of the knee] . . . ." Kahn subsequently reviewed an MRI and concluded that plaintiff suffered no "meniscal tears or ligamentous injuries," though the film displayed "small effusion" of the joint. Kahn suggested that plaintiff "should have . . . arthroscopic surgery."

Plaintiff continued to seek opinions regarding the surgical option. Merrick J. Wetzler, M.D., another orthopedic doctor, recommended that plaintiff undergo therapy. Lawrence I. Barr, D.O., opined that despite the MRI impression, plaintiff may have suffered a posterior cruciate ligament tear, noting such a condition is "not well visualized on MRI studies." However, Paul Marchetto, M.D., the last doctor plaintiff saw regarding his knee, recommended therapy, noting in his October 12, 2009 report, that plaintiff should undergo "non-operative treatment."

Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that plaintiff had failed to file a certificate of permanency and that plaintiff's injuries were not permanent. N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8(a). Accompanying plaintiff's opposition to the motion was a certification from Waltzer in which he stated

[Plaintiff] has sustained permanent injury that will have permanent residual sequelae. It is my further opinion . . . that, although further treatment in the future may alleviate some symptomatology, the permanent residuals of the injury cannot be completely resolved by way of further medical treatment[,] intervention and there will always be some aspect of residual permanent injury . . . . Tooth #8 was fractured and could not be restored. An implant was used The crown will have to repeatedly be replaced during [plaintiff's] lifetime . . . .

[T]here is also damage to tooth #7 . . . . It is still possible that further structural or pulpal damages may have occurred to [this] tooth . . . . Plaintiff served no certificate of permanency regarding the injury to his knee.

Plaintiff argued that he had met the LOL threshold in two ways: first, that he had suffered a permanent injury to his teeth; second, that he had suffered "significant disfigurement or significant scarring," specifically the discoloration of his capped tooth, ...


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