Case details

Defense claimed passenger’s injuries not caused by crash





Result type

Not present

hip, labrum, sacroiliac joint pelvis, tear
On Aug. 27, 2013, plaintiff Mary Soung, 28, a telecommunications provider’s repair technician, was a passenger of a vehicle that was being driven by plaintiff Kou Vang, who was traveling near the intersection of Peach and West Shaw avenues, in Clovis. Their vehicle collided with a vehicle that was being driven by Jose de la Cruz-Marquez. Moments earlier, de la Cruz-Marquez’s vehicle was broadsided by a sport utility vehicle that was being driven by Donald Nelson. Soung claimed that she suffered of her back, a hip and her pelvis. Vang claimed that he also suffered an injury. Soung and Vang sued de la Cruz-Marquez and Nelson. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles. Vang settled out of the case before trial, and de la Cruz-Marquez was ultimately dismissed. Thus, the matter continued with only Soung’s claims against Nelson. Soung’s counsel claimed that Nelson caused de la Cruz-Marquez’s collision with Soung. Nelson’s counsel conceded liability. The trial addressed damages., Soung claimed that she suffered a tear of the hip’s labrum and a sacroiliac joint injury. She presented to her treating chiropractor two days after the accident. After her initial chiropractic treatment, she presented to her primary care physician one week later. Soung then underwent six months of chiropractic care and presented to a Kaiser location once. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the labrum tear showed up for the first time in an MR arthrogram one week before trial. Soung claimed that she is limited in her ability to sit and stand for long periods of time. She also claimed that she is limited in her ability to run recreationally, which she used to enjoy, and walk for long distances. She further claimed that is not able to sit on the floor or lay on her abdomen. Soung claimed that she will require surgeries, including a sacroiliac joint fusion, a hip arthroscopy and a total hip replacement. Soung’s past medical expenses were waived at the time of trial. As a result, she sought recovery of past lost earnings spanning from November 2014 through January 2015. She also sought recovery of future medical costs, and damages for past and future pain and suffering. During closing arguments, plaintiff’s counsel presented various combinations of alternative compensation scenarios regarding Soung’s alleged future medical costs and noneconomic damages. Defense counsel disputed the nature and extent of Soung’s alleged and argued that Soung’s were unrelated to the accident. Counsel conceded that the arthrogram of Soung’s hip labrum showed a small tear but denied that the accident caused it. Defense counsel also contended that although Soung’s medical treatment spanned six years, it included two two-year gaps in care. Counsel further contended that Soung was involved in two other motor vehicle accidents that allegedly resulted in : One accident occurred in 2005 and the other only three months before trial, prior to the labrum tear first appearing. The defense’s chronic pain expert agreed that Soung had some sort of back pain but opined that Soung only had nonspecific back pain that could not be resolved by the future surgeries alleged and that little, if any, future treatment would be related to the accident. The defense’s expert also testified that a prerequisite for a sacroiliac joint fusion would be a fracture of the sacroiliac joint, but that there was no fracture in Soung’s case. Defense counsel noted that the retained medical experts from both sides agreed that Soung’s pain generators were unknown and that, therefore, the possible future surgeries were not established to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. Defense counsel also noted that testimony from Soung’s treating chiropractor demonstrated that Soung’s had largely resolved, at about 96 percent with home exercises, as of February 2014, six months after the subject accident. Counsel argued that any future surgeries, which were first proposed in July 2019 and August 2019 (two months before trial and six years post-accident), were too far removed from the subject accident to be related to it. Counsel further argued that Soung’s were resolved and that any future surgeries would not be necessary. Defense counsel further disputed Soung’s claim that she lost work time due to the accident, and contended that there appeared to be other unrelated medical issues. In closing, defense counsel argued that if the jury were to award Soung anything, it should only award approximately $25,000, plus the recurring amount of $621 per year, if Soung ever had any flare-ups for non-specific lower back pain. The parties agreed to stipulate to a present-value reduction to 80 percent of future economic damages, but the jury was not made aware of that stipulation.
Superior Court of Fresno County, Fresno, CA

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