By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Accident victim awarded nearly $500K
MONROE - The plaintiff in a civil lawsuit regarding a car accident that occurred almost six years ago has been awarded almost half a million dollars.

A judgment was found by Judge James Beer on March 3, ending the three-year case concerning a traffic accident in March of 2008 that involved Jessica Foulker, 26, Fitchburg, and Margaret Tullis, 82, Monroe. The $492,054.74 award was met to full satisfaction Thursday, March 6.

According to court documents:

On March 14, 2008, Foulker was stopped at the intersection of 15th Street and 14th Avenue before attempting to pass through when Tullis, who had a yield sign and thought she could clear the intersection before her, drove through and hit Foulker's blue Dodge Dart. Foulker's car traveled off the road and came to rest in a resident's lawn. Foulker later reported losing consciousness, but did not report any injuries until a couple of hours after the incident. Foulker was on her way to her job at Swiss Colony, and according to Tullis' testimony, Foulker said to her, "I'm late; you made me late." Tullis was on her way home after delivering cookies to a bake sale.

A few hours later at Monroe Clinic hospital, Foulker reported she had pain in her left shoulder and in her neck. New injuries came to light more than two years after the accident when Foulker said she had pain in her jaw, which was a product of the accident. A civil case was not filed until 2011, and a jury trial not until January 2014. Jurors entered a verdict in favor of Foulker on Jan. 9.

Several dentistry professionals were brought in to give expert testimony to Foulker's injuries during the civil trial. Dr. Paul Insolera, said she had temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ, which is like a type of arthritis in the jaw. Insolera said it is common for symptoms of TMJ to go unreported following an accident until years later. He said it is a common injury and is caused by whiplash from an accident and not necessarily contact of the jaw to an object. Insolera said he thought Foulker could have had TMJ as early as 2001 when it went undiagnosed after she fell on her face in a roller skating accident.

Dr. Charles Greene, who researched chronic pain from TMJ and other disorders at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said Foulker could have had TMJ before the accident but that there was insufficient medical documentation to make that assumption.

During testimony given by Greene on Feb. 10, he was asked by Defense Attorney Roger Flores, "Would you recommend that Jessica seek any future care with Dr. Insolera?" Greene answered, "Absolutely not."

Greene said Foulker's symptoms of TMJ did not become readily apparent until the summer of 2011. He wrote in his report that "One day she yawned and her jaw snapped completely shut," he said. "This was very painful and lasted about six days."

Court records indicate Foulker was experiencing jaw pain as early as 2008 following the crash, but she did not seek medical assistance because she was uninsured. Several of Foulker's family members and acquaintances testified that they noticed Foulker's jaw condition worsen following the accident. Her former supervisor at Swiss Colony Valerie Maines said Foulker appeared in good health after the accident and referred to her as a "bounder." Several years later the two met for lunch and she noticed Foulker had very restricted jaw movement.

Greene said in that same Feb. 10 testimony that TMJ issues can manifest many years after an accident.

"So it's not like six weeks. It's not like a year," he said. "It could be a couple of years."

He gave an example that an injury like a broken finger would heal but could hurt five years down the road. He said medical professionals wouldn't look at the finger since it is healed, but rather at the nervous system.

"My belief is that her jaw injury was caused by the accident, and that what we are dealing with now are the downstream effects of that," he said.

Prosecuting Attorney Greg Knoke was seeking more than $800,000 in damages incurred, and long-term suffering of Foulker.

Tullis' insurance company American Family Insurance filed a motion to Beer to set aside the jury verdict but was denied. American Family paid the amount demanded in full.