$1.2 million award to young driver for neck and back pain with surgery following rear-ender. Sacramento County.

Summary

Logging truck rear-ends car at low speed but with heavy impact. Female, 19, has surgery for cervical injury but pain persists. Jury awards $1.2 million.

The Case

  • Case Name: Elliott v. Lewis, Rick Vance Trucking, and Rick Vance
  • Court and Case Number: Sacramento Superior Court/ 34-2011-00107465
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
  • Date Action was Filed: Sunday, July 24, 2011
  • Type of Action: Vehicles - Truck vs. Auto
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Trena Burger-Plavan
  • Plaintiffs:
    Samantha Elliott, 19, cosmetologist
  • Defendants:
    Robert Lewis, truck driver
    Rick Vance Trucking, and owner, Rick Vance

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,208,401
  • Economic Damages:

    $708,401 (past medical: $146,770; future medical: $517,731; future lost earnings: $43,900).

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $500,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 2 weeks
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 22 1/2 hours

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Bohm Law Group by Lawrance A. Bohm and Charles S. Bracewell, Sacramento.
    Law Offices of Ed Smith by Edward A. Smith, Sacramento (Co-Counsel of Record).
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Diepenbrock & Cotter, LLP by Mary L. Diepenbrock and John P. Cotter, Sacramento.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Charles Rosen, M.D., orthopaedic surgery, UC Irvine
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    F. Karl Gregorius, M.D., neurosurgery, Stockton
    Philip Weinstein, M.D., neurosurgery, UC San Francisco
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Robert Lindskog, P.E., engineering, Santa Clara
    Gary Moran, Ph.D., biomechanics/anatomy, San Francisco
    Richard Andersen, M.S., vocational rehabilitation, Westminster
    Dorajane Apuna-Grummer, R.N., CNLCP, Life Care Planning, Sacramento
    John Hancock, Ph.D., economics, Gold River
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Tami Rockholt, R.N., medical billing, Portland, Oregon
    Gregory Sells, vocational rehabilitation, Sacramento

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff was rear-ended by defendant's fully loaded, 73,000-pound logging truck on August 20, 2009. The estimated speed at collision was between 6 and 7 miles per hour. Plaintiff was driving a Nissan Maxima sedan which was pushed forward into a Toyota Prius. All vehicles sustained minor physical damage. Plaintiff’s vehicle was declared a total loss due to bending of the frame.

    Plaintiff complained of neck pain on the scene of the collision and was treated at a Kaiser Hospital Emergency Room in Roseville, CA. At the time of the collision, plaintiff had just begun her career as a cosmetologist at an upscale salon in El Dorado Hills, CA. Plaintiff's work included manicures and pedicures.

     

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the decline in plaintiff's condition after surgery was due to subsidence (sinking) of the artificial disc and abnormal cervical curvature (kyphotic deformity). That the artificial disc would fail sometime in the next 5 to 40 years.

    At the close of defendants' case, plaintiff moved for a directed verdict as to causation of injury. The motion was granted by the court, leaving the sole issue of nature and extent of plaintiff's damages to be decided by the jury.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Just before trial, defendants admitted to the negligent operation of the logging truck. Defendants continued to dispute causation of injury and the nature and extent of damages.

    Defendant contended that plaintiff had an excellent surgical outcome; that all current pain was related to repetitive work trauma due to her occupation as a cosmetologist doing nails and hair.

    Also, that plaintiff's post-surgical problems were due to her working conditions and that plaintiff's current physical problems were exaggerated for trial. That the life-care plan provided by plaintiff's experts and their $2,300,000 claim for future medical care was manufactured for purposes of litigation. At trial, defendant argued to provide plaintiff approximately $414,000 total compensation.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff, who had no history of prior neck problems, experienced persistent pain in her neck and arms. Pain interfered with her ability to sleep. Over a year later, numbness in her arms and severe headaches interfered with her ability to enjoy life and work. After conservative treatment by Kaiser failed to remedy the problems, plaintiff consulted with Orthopaedic Surgeon Phillip J. Orisek (Folsom, CA). After concordant discography confirmed disc disruption, plaintiff received a one level artificial disc replacement at the C5/C6 level. Following surgery, plaintiff's neck pain and headaches were initially resolved.

    Approximately one year after surgery, plaintiff began to experience neck pain and headaches in steadily increasing frequency and severity. Plaintiff also experienced persistent low back pain and soreness. Plaintiff had a pre-existing fracture and low back pain three years prior to the collision.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $1,499,999 (February 4, 2013)
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $526,000 (January 30, 2013)

Additional Notes

Defense Insurance Provider: Praetorian Insurance Company.

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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