Case details

Couple claimed spinal injuries from highway accident





Result type

Not present

back, cervical disc injury, herniated disc, lordosis, lower back, neck
On June 4, 2015, plaintiff Jose Catalan, 46, a janitorial worker, was driving on the eastbound side of Interstate 10, also known as the Santa Monica Freeway, near the interchange for Interstate 405, also known as the San Diego Freeway, in Los Angeles. His wife, plaintiff Amanda Lopez, 49, also a janitorial worker, was a passenger. While their minivan was stopping for traffic, it was rear-ended by a van driven by Justino Miramonte. Catalan claimed to his neck, back and a shoulder. Lopez claimed to her neck and back. Catalan and Lopez sued Miramonte and Miramonte’s employer, Pakket Delivery Services LLC. Catalan and Lopez alleged that Miramonte was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. They further alleged that Pakket Delivery Services was vicariously liable for Miramonte’s actions while in the course and scope of his employment. The defendants conceded liability. The trial addressed damages., Lopez claimed that she sustained herniated discs at the C4-5, C5-6, C6-7, L4-5 and L5-S1 levels. She also claimed that she sustained trauma that disrupted the cervical lordosis, which is the normal curvature of the spine’s cervical region. Lopez was placed in an ambulance and transported to Southern California Hospital at Culver City, where she was treated and released. She underwent 41 sessions of physical therapy and chiropractic treatment over the next 5.5 months. Lopez also began treating with a pain management doctor and was administered three epidural injections of steroid-based painkillers. She received her first cervical epidural steroid injection in September 2015, a lumbar epidural steroid injection the following month and an additional cervical epidural steroid injection in December 2016. Lopez saw a spinal surgeon who recommended cervical fusion. Lopez did not have the surgery prior to trial, but she continued to be monitored. Lopez claimed that while she is able to do everything she did prior to the crash, she has to deal with continued pain that affects her at home and at work. She also claimed that the lordosis disruption caused an abnormal posture. Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that Lopez has three options: She could receive no further treatment, which would lead to greater pain and suffering in the future; she could receive palliative care, which could somewhat reduce her pain and suffering; or she could have the cervical fusion surgery that would hopefully minimize her future pain and suffering. Lopez sought recovery of past and future medical expenses, and noneconomic damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Catalan claimed that the accident caused minor disc abnormalities in his cervical spine and soft tissue to his lumbar spine. He also claimed that he suffered a mild separation of the acromioclavicular joint in his right, dominant shoulder. Catalan’s were not severe enough to require a trip to the hospital, but he accompanied his wife in the ambulance to Southern California Hospital. While he was there, his were treated, and he was released the same day. Catalan ultimately underwent 41 sessions of physical therapy and chiropractic treatment over the next 5.5 months. He also received an epidural steroid injection to his neck during that time period. Catalan admitted that he has no significant limitations and that he had mostly recovered from his and required no further treatment. He alleged he just has to deal with some occasional pain that he treats with over-the-counter medication. Catalan sought recovery of past medical expenses and noneconomic damages for his past pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that the alleged by both Lopez and Catalan were pre-existing and degenerative. The defense’s expert orthopedist performed an independent medical exam of Lopez and concluded that Lopez did not require spinal surgery. Defense counsel further argued that Lopez’s treatment was unnecessary and overly expensive. Defense counsel also disputed the severity of Lopez’s . Counsel noted that Lopez had a gap in treatment between the end of her physical therapy and the start of her epidural injections, and another gap between her second and third injections. Defense counsel also pointed out that Lopez delayed scheduling her spinal surgery despite being recommended for it.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, CA

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