Case details

Defense claimed minor impact could not have caused injuries





Result type

Not present

back, chondromalacia, chondromalacipatella, fusion, knee, lumbar, lumbar knee, medial meniscus, sprain, tear
On June 1, 2012, plaintiff Francisco Bautista, a day laborer in his 30s, was a passenger on a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus operated by Kenneth Blue. The bus was traveling on the northbound 710 Freeway, near the off-ramp for westbound Florence Avenue, when it came into contact with a tractor-trailer operated by Victoriano Agraz Aguilera. Bautista claimed the collision caused him to impact the seatback in front of him and injure his back and knee. Bautista sued the bus operator, Blue; the tractor-trailer’s operator, Aguilera, who was doing business as Agraz Trucking; and Blue’s employer, the LACMTA. Bautista alleged that Blue and Aguilera were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles and that the LACMTA was vicariously liable for Blue’s actions. Blue and the LACMTA settled out of the case prior to trial. Thus, the matter continued against Aguilera only. Bautista contended that Aguilera made an unsafe lane change as he attempted to exit the 710 Freeway onto Florence Avenue, thereby causing the sideswipe collision. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that approximately one year into litigation, LACMTA “found” its digital recordings of the interior and exterior of the bus several minutes before the collision. The video was not filmed in “real time,” and showed minimal movement of Bautista and other passengers during the impact. The exterior film showed the tractor-trailer exiting the freeway and appearing to merge into the bus. The plaintiff’s biomechanical expert testified that the films clearly showed the truck cab collide with the side of the bus and the bus never moving from its lane of travel. Aguilera contended that he was not negligent and that the impact was very minor. However, defense counsel offered no expert testimony as to liability., Paramedics transported Bautista to a local emergency room, but Bautista left after waiting for several hours without being examined. He then treated at Huntington Park Health Center, in Huntington Park, and received chiropractic treatment and therapy. Bautista was later referred to his treating orthopedic surgeon, who diagnosed problems with Bautista’s lumbar disc and left knee. Epidural injections were administered to his lumbar spine, and Bautista ultimately underwent a lumbar discectomy and interbody fusion at L5-S1. He also underwent arthroscopic knee surgery for a medial meniscus tear and chondromalacia. Bautista was then referred to pain management physician for treatment. Bautista claimed that although his knee and lower back had pre-existing abnormalities, they were asymptomatic until the subject accident. Thus, he claimed the subject accident caused an aggravation of those conditions, causing them to be symptomatic. The plaintiff’s biomechanical expert opined that although there were minimal forces involved in the collision, Bautista’s movements caused sprains to his back and knee, which caused the underlying, pre-existing conditions to become symptomatic. Bautista testified that he still has lower back complaints, but that his condition is improving. He also testified that he had not been able to work in construction since the subject accident, but was eager to return to work and become independent again. Bautista noted that he was scheduled for a one-year check-up with his treating orthopedic surgeon in January 2015 to determine what, if any, future treatment would be necessary. Defense counsel disputed Bautista’s contention that he was injured in the accident and did not believe the accident caused any of his alleged . Counsel contended that any were a result of pre-existing degenerative conditions and that the forces in the accident were not sufficient to cause any injury. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert testified that he was not given enough information to arrive at an opinion as to who caused the collision. However, the expert opined that only minimal forces were exerted on Bautista during the crash. The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert testified that Bautista’s pre-existed the accident and that, at most, Bautista only suffered minimal soft-tissue to his back. However, the expert testified that he would defer to the defense’s accident reconstruction expert as to the issue of an aggravation of Bautista’s pre-existing . The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon further opined that Bautista’s medical charges were excessive by a multiple of 10.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Chatsworth, CA

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