"Eggshell" plaintiff claims injuries from minor accident require surgery. Defense verdict. Los Angeles County.
Plaintiff, 69, with history of prior back surgery, claims need for knee surgery after low-impact accident. Defendant admits liability for minor accident, but argues that no injuries could have occurred.
- Case Name: Herman Johnson v. Yannet Morales
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC560712
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, May 04, 2016
- Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, October 15, 2014
- Type of Action: Vehicles - Auto vs. Auto, Vehicles - Left Turn
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Michael B. Harwin
- Plaintiffs: Herman Johnson, 69
- Defendants: Yannet Morales, 21
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict.
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 1 hour.
- Jury Polls: 9-3 defense verdict (The jury concluded that defendant’s negligence was not a substantial factor in causing harm to plaintiff.)
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Kuzyk Law, LLP by Arturo T. Salinas, Lancaster.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Demler, Armstrong & Rowland by Timothy J. Lippert, Long Beach.
- Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Mehul Taylor, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Lancaster.
Masoud Safaeion, D.C., chiropractic, Inglewood.
- Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
Dominic Sisto, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Sherman Oaks.
Neil Chafetz, M.D., radiology, San Pedro.
- Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Ted Bloomquist, accident reconstruction/biomechanics.
- Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Thomas Szabo, accident reconstruction/biomechanics, Long Beach.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Defendant Yannett Morales admitted that she made an unsafe lane change and struck the left front corner of plaintiff’s pick-up truck on Hillcrest Street in Inglewood, causing relatively minor property damage.
Plaintiff Herman Johnson was 69 years old at the time of the accident and had undergone a prior cervical spine fusion as well as multiple prior right knee surgeries. Plaintiff did not complain of any injuries at the scene and flew to Atlanta for a family reunion the following day. Plaintiff returned to Los Angeles approximately one week later and started receiving chiropractic treatment for pain in his neck, low back, left wrist, and right knee three weeks after the accident. He eventually underwent a right knee arthroscopy for a torn meniscus approximately 14 months after the accident by Mehul Taylor, M.D. in Palmdale. All of plaintiff’s treatment was on a lien.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That the accident caused by defendant exacerbated plaintiff's symptoms to the point of needing additional treatment.
- Defendant's Contentions:
Defendant admitted liability, but argued that the accident was so minor that it could not have caused any significant injuries. Defendant’s medical experts testified that plaintiff had severe pre-existing degenerative arthritis in his right knee, and the surgery was not related to the accident.
Defendant’s orthopedist conceded that plaintiff likely did sustain a temporary exacerbation of his pre-existing neck and low back pain as a result of the accident. The defense argued that the charges for plaintiff’s medical treatment were outrageous and litigation-driven, particularly in regard to the right knee arthroscopy charges, which totaled just over $60,000.
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Pain in neck, low back and left wrist; torn right miniscus.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $87,500
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $49,999
- Defendant §998 Offer: $25,000 (policy limits).
Prior to trial, plaintiff’s counsel sent a total of 34 letters to defense counsel and defendant’s insurance carrier alleging various acts of bad faith, attorney malpractice, and violations of the Insurance Code, claiming that the insurer and counsel were “thumbing their nose” at the Department of Insurance by failing to comply with multiple insurance regulations, for allegedly undervaluing the case, and failing to accept plaintiff’s settlement demand.
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