Low verdict after $150K offer in highway crash. $60.8K. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Pre-existing medical conditions become the focus of defense.

The Case

  • Case Name: Gabriel Feliciano v. The Estate of Chard Marc Gonzalez
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC608989
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, September 12, 2018
  • Type of Action: Vehicles - Auto vs. Auto
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. C. Edward Simpson
  • Plaintiffs:
    Gabriel Feliciano, 30
  • Defendants:
    The Estate of Chard Marc Gonzalez
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $60,800
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    The jury found that the collision was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s injuries. 

  • Economic Damages:

    Past: $10,800

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $30,000

    Future: $20,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 3 1/2 hours.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defendants filed a cost bill in the amount of $23,071.87.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Akiva Niamehr LLP by Jesse French, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Gates, Gonter, Guy, Proudfoot & Muench, LLP by Robert Gonter and Vincent H. Brunello, Irvine.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Kasra Rowshan, M.D., orthopedic spine surgery, Newport Beach.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Nick Shamie, M.D., orthopedic spine surgery, Santa Monica.

    Stephen Rothman, M.D., neuroradiology, Los Angeles.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The subject accident occurred on February 22, 2014, a Saturday, at approximately 6:30 p.m. in the northbound lanes of SR-14, .2 miles north of Placerita Canyon Road, Canyon Country.

    Plaintiff  was driving a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck northbound in the HOV lane at about 70 miles per hour. He states that “all of a sudden he was hit from behind and stopped on the left shoulder.” Defendant, age 36, was driving his 2003 Ford Explorer in the number two lane (the lane adjacent and to the right of the HOV lane) at approximately 65-70 miles per hour. He was unsure of how the incident occurred.

    There was a CHP investigation. Damage to both vehicles was significant. At the scene, defendant suffered a laceration to his head and pain to his chest. Plaintiff  complained of pain to his back and nausea. Repairs to plaintiff’s vehicle amounted to $28,391.34.

    Defendant passed away during the course of litigation due to unrelated health conditions. The parties entered into a stipulation wherein plaintiff would proceed against defendant's estate.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contended there was a mechanism for injury given the severe impact and significant damage to the vehicles. Plaintiff had denied all prior back injuries and pain complaints at deposition and in written discovery. He also denied any radicular symptoms at deposition. He later contended that his pain following the incident was different than his pre-accident back pain.  

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant contended that plaintiff’s condition was not made worse as a result of the subject incident; that plaintiff had treated for his chronic low back pain consistently from 2008 up until 11 days before the accident. Defendant contended that the surgery was unrelated and unnecessary, given the lack of objective radicular symptoms, and extensive history of prior back pain.

    Defendant’s experts contended that the plaintiff’s lumbar spine was completely normal, with the exception of some mild congenital stenosis. Defense expert Nick Shamie, M.D. testified that if anything, the plaintiff suffered a sprain/strain of the lumbar spine and neck, which should have resolved in 2-3 months of conservative treatment. Defendant argued that there were absolutely no indications for Dr. Rowshan to perform surgery.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff complained of pain to his back and nausea at the accident scene. According to the police report, plaintiff was taken by AMR Ambulance to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. He stated that he was struck from behind by another vehicle traveling at 85 miles per hour. He was jolted forward. He believes he struck his head against the headrest. 

    Plaintiff sought chiropractic care. Plaintiff told the chiropractor that he had immediate pain in his mid-back, lower back, left shoulder, and right hand after the accident. He developed moderate headaches. 

    His complaints were:

    • Constant moderate upper/middle back pain and stiffness;
    • Constant moderate to severe lower back pain and stiffness;
    • Intermittent moderate left shoulder pain;
    • Intermittent moderate right hand pain;
    • Intermittent slight sharp headaches at the frontal area and right side of head;
    • Unable to find a comfortable position in bed due to pain;
    • Cannot stand, sit or walk for 10-20 minutes before changing position due to pain;
    • Blurred vision;
    • Nausea/vomiting;
    • Dizziness;
    • Popping and crackling of the back;
    • Pain level was 7 of 10.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Plaintiff then began a course of treatment with Dr. Pablo Pazmino, Dr. Fabian Proano, and Dr. Vikram Singh. The physicians performed a combination of epidural steroid injections and facet block injections in the thoracic and lumbar spine. Following the unsuccessful injections, plaintiff treated with Dr. Rowshan, M.D. The doctor believed he would benefit from lumbar rhizotomy procedure estimated to be about $64,256. He also recommended a laminectomy estimated to be $118,330. Dr. Rowshan ultimately performed both procedures. Plaintiff contended that his back surgery was necessary and related to the accident, as he had allegedly failed conservative treatment. 

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $300,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $480,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $14,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: First, $1,250,000, modified to $350,000.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $150,000

Additional Notes

Per defense counsel:

In closing argument, the plaintiff’s attorney argued that this was a life-changing event, and plaintiff required treatment for the rest of his life. In closing, plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to return a verdict of $1.25 million.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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