Case details

Accident caused spine and wrist pain, plaintiff claimed





Result type

Not present

back, herniated disc, lower back, neck
On April 16, 2008, plaintiff Amy Caldwell, 30, a clerical worker with Health Net, was a passenger in a vehicle operated by her friend, Ashleigh Hughes, and traveling on Mather Field Road in Rancho Cordova. At approximately 5:30 p.m., Hughes swerved her vehicle to avoid hitting a U-Haul truck stopped at a metering light, causing her to strike an embankment and then the U-Haul truck. Caldwell claimed to her head, neck and back. Caldwell sued Hughes and the owner of the vehicle, Brian Lopez. Caldwell alleged that Hughes was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that Lopez was vicariously liable for Hughes’ actions. Lopez was ultimately dismissed from the case during trial. Caldwell claimed that just prior to the accident, Hughes received a text message and looked down at her phone. She claimed that when Hughes looked back up, Hughes had to swerve to avoid the U-Haul. Thus, Caldwell claimed that Hughes’ actions caused the accident. Hughes admitted liability, and filed a motion to suppress any evidence about the text since it was not relevant. However, plaintiff’s counsel contended that the admissions were unverified and that the texting was relevant since it weighed on the accident reconstruction expert’s opinion on the speed of the collision, as well as the Caldwell’s general damages, since she claimed she was injured as a result of Hughes’ texting. The judge denied defense counsel’s motion, and allowed evidence about the text. Plaintiff’s counsel then successfully moved for a directed verdict on negligence and causation., On the day after the accident, Caldwell presented to her primary care physician with complaints of slight lower back pain and wrist pain. She was subsequently prescribed pain medication and took two days off from work. She then returned to her physician two days later with complaints of tailbone pain. Nine days after the accident, Caldwell claimed she experienced excruciating neck pain and burning, and could not turn her neck. As a result, she underwent an MRI, which revealed a cervical disc herniation at the C5-6 level, and followed up with physical therapy and chiropractic care. In November 2008, Caldwell received an epidural steroid injection to her neck, which she claimed helped tremendously. Caldwell did not treat again until January 2010, when she received more physical therapy and another epidural injection. She claimed that her ongoing neck condition ultimately had her undergo a two-level disc replacement. Caldwell claimed she had a great result from the surgery and was then able to return to a more physically demanding job. However, she claimed that she may require additional surgery and treatment. Thus, Caldwell sought recovery of $137,000 in paid medical costs, $83,000 in past lost earnings, $225,000 in future medical costs, and an unspecified amount of damages for her pain and suffering. Defense counsel disputed the nature and extent of Caldwell’s and damages. Specifically, counsel argued that Caldwell’s neck injury was not related to the accident and that Caldwell had a pre-existing condition with a possible diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy. Defense counsel also argued that Caldwell complained of wrist pain and numbness three months before the accident. Defense counsel presented sub rosa video of Caldwell walking and shopping allegedly without discomfort, just three days before her neck surgery. In addition, Hughes testified that she exercised regularly with Caldwell after the accident.
Superior Court of Sacramento County, Sacramento, CA

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