Case details

Defense claimed fusion surgery not related to rear-end crash





Result type

Not present

back, fusion, herniated disc, herniated lumbar disc, lower back, lumbar, neck, spondylosis
On Nov. 14, 2013, plaintiff Sandy Palma, 26, a stock worker, was operating her vehicle on the San Bernardino Freeway, also known as Interstate 10, near Euclid Avenue in Upland, when her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Brandon Rodriguez. Palma claimed to her lower back. Palma sued Brandon Rodriguez and the owners of Brandon Rodriguez’s vehicle, his parents, Raul Rodriguez and Agnes Rodriguez. Palma alleged that Brandon Rodriguez was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Brandon Rodriguez’s parents were vicariously liable for their son’s actions. Brandon Rodriguez’s parents were ultimately removed from the case, and the matter continued against only Brandon Rodriguez, who conceded liability for the accident., Palma claimed to her lower back. After the collision, she presented to a prior attorney, who referred her to a chiropractor on Nov. 21, 2013, one week after the accident. Palma then treated with the chiropractor for a few months, but stopped treatment on March 21, 2014. At that time, her medical expenses totaled approximately $6,000. She then began treatment at a Healthpoint medical clinic, where she was diagnosed with a herniated lumbar disc in her lower back. She then underwent a series of three epidural injections by one of the physicians at the medical clinic and saw another physician at the clinic who treated her conservatively for her lower back pain. Palma was then sent to her treating orthopedic surgery expert a few months before trial. The surgeon found that Palma had an abnormality in the lower spine, specifically spondylosis at the L5-S1 level. As a result, Palma underwent a lumbar fusion at the L5-S1 level in July 2016. Palma was still recovering from her surgery at the time of this trial. The plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon opined that the abnormality was congenital and that it was aggravated by the subject accident. The expert also opined that the aggravation caused the need for the lumbar fusion. Both the plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgery expert and the defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon agreed that Palma would likely require an additional fusion surgery to the adjacent segment at L4-5, as it could collapse due to the previous lumbar fusion. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Palma $2.6 million, including approximately $327,000 in medical expenses, an unspecified amount for Palma’s loss of earnings, and general damages for Palma’s pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that Palma’s surgery was not necessary or causally related to the accident. Counsel also contended that Palma had a one year gap in treatment for her lower back, but noted that Palma did see physicians for other ailments during that time. The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert opined that there was no reason for the lumbar fusion and disputed that it was related to the subject accident. Thus, defense counsel argued that Palma’s care and surgery were orchestrated by her prior attorney.
Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA

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