Case details

Collision triggered symptoms of congenital condition: plaintiff





Result type

Not present

cognition, head, headaches neck, mental, neurological, psychological, radiculopathy, sciatica
On Aug. 28, 2015, plaintiff Andrea Juarez, 27, a stock room manager, was driving in the curb lane of the eastbound side of Rancho Vista Boulevard, in Palmdale. The passenger side of her compact vehicle was broadsided by a sport utility vehicle operated by Thomas Ziegler, who was pulling out of a shopping mall. Juarez claimed to her head, neck and back. Juarez sued Ziegler. She alleged that Ziegler was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Juarez claimed that she was traveling at 30 to 35 mph, facing no traffic signals, when the collision occurred. Ziegler denied negligence, claiming his view was obstructed by another vehicle turning into the driveway as he was pulling out., Juarez claimed that the accident caused her to suffer pain to her neck, back and hips, as well as an aggravation of her pre-existing congenital condition known as Chiari malformation. Juarez was born with Chiari malformation type I: a congenital condition in which the brain tissue (cerebellum) drops down into the spinal canal, causing the spinal cord and the brain to compete for the same space. Consequently, the brain tissue gets squeezed with head movement. Symptoms can come on naturally later in life or be triggered by trauma, such as from a motor vehicle accident, where studies indicate 12 to 24 percent of the cases are triggered by trauma. Juarez contended that prior to the subject accident, her condition was completely asymptomatic. After the collision, Juarez presented to an emergency room, where her hips were X-rayed prior to her being released. She then began chiropractic treatment shortly thereafter, and eventually received cortisone injections in her hips. She contended that the subject accident triggered the symptoms from her Chiari malformation, including severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, cognitive impairment, memory loss, and radiculopathy in all extremities. Juarez also contended that she experienced sciatica, causing pain in her neck, back and hips. She underwent chiropractic treatment and received cortisone injections in her hips. Juarez alleged that she demoted herself as a stock room manager because she could no longer do any lifting or moving of inventory. She also alleged that her class schedule in college was reduced from a full load down to one or two classes a semester because her focus, concentration and memory were severely affected, causing her grades to diminish from all A’s to much less, including one failed class. Juarez, who was seven months pregnant at the time of trial, claimed that when she gives birth to her child, she will need to have a caesarean section, instead of a natural birth, as contractions and pushing will cause debilitating pain in her brain. She also claimed that she was 125 pounds before the subject accident and that she ballooned to 168 pounds due to inactivity and inability to exercise after the subject collision. She further claimed that she will eventually need to undergo brain decompression surgery to alleviate the symptoms from the Chiari malformation. The plaintiff’s medical coding and billing expert indicated that the cost range for Juarez’s future surgery will be between $173,000 and $201,500. Juarez sought recovery of approximately $28,000 in past medical costs, $173,000 to $201,500 in future medical costs, and an unspecified amount of lost earnings. She also sought recovery of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that the impact was minor since Juarez’s air bags did not deploy and that as a result, Juarez was only expected to have sustained soft tissue . According to plaintiff’s counsel, defense counsel failed to attach expert medical reports to their expert designations on three occasions and as a result, upon a motion in limine, the defense’s two medical experts were excluded from testifying altogether. Thus, the plaintiff’s medical expert testimony was unrebutted.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Lancaster, CA

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