Case details

Car crash’s parties disputed who had right of way





Result type

Not present

back, brain, brain injury, chest, cognition, fusion, herniated disc, impairment, lumbar, mental, neurological, psychological, reflex sympathetic, traumatic brain injury
On Dec. 6, 2009, plaintiff Margarito Robledo, 32, a warehouse worker, was driving his pickup truck south on Sunset Avenue in La Puente with his friend, plaintiff Jaime Topete, 22, a landscape laborer, in the rear passenger seat, and Topete’s mother-in-law, plaintiff Martha Castellanos, 44, a seamstress, in the front passenger seat. At approximately 11:40 p.m., Robledo’s pickup truck entered the intersection with Amar Road and was broadsided by a police cruiser operated by Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Damian Marquez. Robledo claimed to his lower back, Topete claimed a traumatic brain injury and Castellanos claimed to her left knee. Robledo, Castellanos and Topete sued Marquez and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. They alleged that Marquez was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that the sheriff’s department was vicariously liable for his actions. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Robledo entered the intersection on a green light and that Marquez ran a red light, causing the broadside collision. Counsel argued that Marquez was speeding into the intersection and was inattentive to Robledo’s oncoming vehicle. Marquez claimed that he entered the intersection on a green light, and that it was Robledo who ran a red light and caused the accident., Robledo and Topete were taken from the scene of the accident by ambulance and were brought to an emergency room, while Castellanos went to an emergency room the following morning. Robledo claimed he sustained to his lower back. An MRI ultimately revealed lumbar disc herniations at L4-5 and L5-S1. He initially treated with physical therapy and epidural injections, and in February 2011, underwent a disc replacement at L4-5 and fusion at L5-S1. Robledo then followed up with more physical therapy. Robledo claimed he was prohibited him from picking up and playing with his children after the accident, but that the surgery was effective. He also claimed he stopped working one month after the accident and has been on disability ever since. Thus, Robledo claimed $407,000 in past medical costs and sought recovery of unspecified damages for his pain and suffering. Topete claimed he hit his head somewhere inside the vehicle, possibly on the b-pillar of Robledo’s truck, and was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, with a Glasgow Coma score of 3. He was subsequently placed in a medically-induced coma and remained hospitalized for 10 days. He was then transferred to a rehabilitation facility and followed up with outpatient care. Topete claimed he suffers from permanent cognitive impairments and now functions on a five-year-old level. He claimed he can never return to work as a laborer, and can no longer perform duties as a husband (including sexual activity) and father. Thus, Topete claimed $206,000 in damages for his past medical costs. He also sought $8.2 million in damages for his future medical care costs and life care plan, $5,000 in damages for his past lost earnings, $1.2 million in damages for his future lost earnings, and $19 million in damages for his pain and suffering. In addition, Topete’s wife, Lesly Lara, brought a derivative claim, seeking recovery of $6 million for her loss of consortium. Castellanos claimed she experienced some chest pain following the accident and was referred to a chiropractor for continuous pain to her left knee. She subsequently underwent an exploratory arthroscopy to see if there was a torn meniscus, which revealed only an arthritic condition. However, Castellanos claimed she developed deep vein thrombosis, which manifested into complex regional pain syndrome,also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy or causalgia, a chronic pain condition. Castellanos claimed she experiences chronic, ongoing pain in her left knee, for which she requires pain management. She claimed she stopped working a month after the accident and could not return to work as a seamstress. Thus, Castellanos claimed $117,000 in damages for her past medical costs. She also sought $1.5 million in damages for her future medical costs, $21,000 in damages for her past loss of earnings, $63,000 in damages for her future loss of earnings, and $5 million in damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that Robledo had a congenital problem with his back and that he did not sustain acute from the subject accident. They also presented a subrosa video of Robledo picking up his children after the accident. The defense’s expert neuropsychologist opined that Topete was a malingerer and that he was at the same cognitive capacity the day before the accident as he is now. However, defense counsel did not dispute that Topete sustained a traumatic brain injury, but argued that he suffered from no permanent impairments, that he could return to work and that he did not require a life care plan. Defense counsel contended that Castellanos suffered from a pre-existing arthritic condition in her left knee and did not treat with a chiropractor until one was appointed by her attorney. They did not dispute that Castellanos suffered from CRPS, but argued that it was not caused by the accident.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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