Case details

Defense claimed plaintiff’s back surgery was unnecessary





Result type

Not present

head, headaches neck
On Feb. 22, 2014, plaintiff Gabriel Feliciano, 30, a construction worker, was driving at about 70 mph in the high occupancy vehicle lane of northbound State Route 14, also known as the Antelope Valley Freeway, in Santa Clarita. When he was near Placerita Canyon Road, his pickup truck was rear-ended by a sport utility vehicle operated by Chad Gonzalez. Feliciano claimed to his back. Feliciano sued Gonzalez, alleging that Gonzalez was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Gonzalez passed away from unrelated causes during the course of litigation, so the parties stipulated that Feliciano would proceed against Gonzalez’s estate., Feliciano claimed he sustained soft tissue to his back and neck, resulting in headaches. He was taken by AMR Ambulance to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, in Valencia, where he was treated and released. Feliciano claimed that he continued to have pain and stiffness in his back, and complained that his pain was a seven out of 10. So, he sought chiropractic care before treating with an anesthesiologist and a pain management physician. Feliciano received epidural steroid injections and facet block injections to his thoracic and lumbar spine, but he claimed he did not have any relief from the injections. He then began a course of treatment with an expert orthopedic surgeon, who believed that Feliciano would benefit from a lumbar rhizotomy procedure and a laminectomy. The treating surgeon estimated the rhizotomy to be about $64,256 and estimated the laminectomy to be about $118,330. The expert ultimately performed both procedures. California Highway Patrol investigated the crash, and Feliciano’s vehicle required $28,391.34 in repairs. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that, given the severe impact and significant damage of the vehicles, Feliciano was injured in the crash. Counsel also contended that Feliciano’s back surgery was necessary and related to the accident, as his conservative treatment failed. In addition, counsel argued that Feliciano will required future orthopedic therapy and potentially another surgery. Feliciano sought recovery of $300,000 in past medical costs, $480,000 in future medical costs, and $14,000 in past lost earnings. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. During closing arguments, plaintiff’s counsel argued that the collision was a life-changing event and that Feliciano will require treatment for the rest of his life. Counsel also asked the jury to return a verdict of $1.25 million. Defense counsel noted that Feliciano had denied all prior back and pain complaints at deposition and in written discovery. He also denied any radicular symptoms at deposition. However, defense counsel noted that Feliciano later contended that his pain following the incident was different than his pre-accident back pain. Defense counsel further contended that Feliciano had consistently treated for his chronic lower back pain from 2008 up until 11 days before the accident. Defense counsel argued that given the extensive history of prior back pain and lack of objective radicular symptoms, Feliciano’s condition was not made worse by the subject incident, and his surgery was unnecessary and unrelated to the accident. The defense’s medical experts opined that Feliciano’s lumbar spine was completely normal, with the exception of some mild congenital stenosis. The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert testified that, if anything, Feliciano suffered a sprain and/or strain of the cervical and lumbar spine, which should have resolved with two to three months of conservative treatment. The expert further opined that there was absolutely no indications for the plaintiff’s treating orthopedic expert to perform surgery.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Pasadena, CA

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