Case details

Defense claimed rear-ender did not cause significant injuries





Result type

Not present

anxiety, back, bulging disc, cervical, herniated disc, insomnia, lumbar, mental, neck, psychological, shoulder, shoulder impingement, spasm, spondylolisthesis, sprain, stenosis, strain, thoracic, whiplash
On May 22, 2015, plaintiff Nancy Knappenberger, 50, a sales clerk and bartender, was stopped in traffic on the southbound side of Interstate 5, also known as West Side Highway or West Side Freeway, near Sacramento International Airport, in Sacramento. His pickup truck’s rear end was struck by a trailing pickup truck that was being driven by Rosalba Becerra Cruz. Knappenberger claimed that she suffered of her neck. Knappenberger sued Cruz. Knappenberger alleged that Cruz was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Cruz conceded liability. The trial addressed causation and damages., Knappenberger did not seek immediate medical treatment. She began treating with a chiropractor six days after the accident. The chiropractor initially diagnosed Knappenberger with whiplash-associated disorder, suboccipital post-traumatic headaches, thoracic sprains and strains, insomnia secondary to pain syndromes, and intermittent extremity symptoms. Knappenberger had 11 visits with the chiropractor through October 2015. She also began receiving massage therapy on June 2, 2015, and she continued that treatment through April 2016. The chiropractor also recommended a pain management doctor, whom Knappenberger visited five times. During those sessions, the doctor gave Knappenberger trigger-point injections. In addition, Knappenberger met with a physiatrist, who prescribed muscle relaxants. In July 2015, Knappenberger underwent MRIs of her cervical and lumbar spine. The MRIs allegedly showed herniated discs at the C4-5 and C5-6 levels and bulging discs at the L2-3, L3-4, L4-5 and L5-S1 levels. She was also allegedly determined to have moderate bilateral foraminal stenosis at L4-5 and L5-S1, and an indentation of the ventral thecal sac at L2-3. In addition, she alleged she had spondylolisthesis, which involved the forward displacement of her C5 and C6 vertebrae. In September 2015, Knappenberger presented to an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Anthony Bellomo, with complaints of pain in her neck, lower back and left shoulder. Bellomo diagnosed a limited range of motion in the left shoulder, and cervical and lumbar spine; impingement of the left shoulder; pain over the acromioclavicular joint, lateral acromion and medial border of the scapula; muscle spasms in the lumbar and cervical spine; and pain in the sacral region. He also noted that Knappenberger was suffering anxiety and insomnia. The following month, Knappenberger was administered an epidural injection of a steroid-based painkiller at C7-T1. She then began treating with another orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ardavan Aslie, in February 2016. Aslie administered trigger point injections, physical rehabilitation and traction decompression. Knappenberger claimed that her pain persisted, so Aslie recommended surgery. Aslie claimed that Knappenberger needed a three-level cervical fusion and that the procedure would cost $175,000. Knappenberger claimed that she would have to miss nine months of work following that surgery. Knappenberger further claimed that her make it harder for her to bartend. She also claimed that she was an avid softball player, but that she is no longer able to participate in that activity. She further claimed that she stopped socializing with her friends because she is in constant pain. Knappenberger’s accident-reconstruction expert opined that the crash produced enough force on Knappenberger’s neck to cause cervical instability. Knappenberger sought recovery of approximately $38,000 in past medical expenses and $175,000 in future medical expenses. She also sought $16,000 in future lost earnings for the nine months she will be unable to work post-surgery. In addition, she sought $103,500 in damages for past pain and suffering and $60,000 for future pain and suffering. Defense counsel maintained that the accident did not cause Knappenberger’s . The defense’s expert biomechanical engineer opined that the forces of the crash would not have produced any . The defense’s expert radiologist opined that Knappenberger’s cervical MRIs showed only degenerative changes and no acute . Defense counsel argued that if the jury did find that Knappenberger sustained an injury, that injury would have only been minor. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that Knappenberger sustained a cervical sprain and/or strain and that the injury would have resolved with 36 to 48 sessions of conservative treatment. Defense counsel argued that if the jury found that Knappenberger was injured in the crash, she should only be awarded $3,600 to $4,800, all for past medical expenses.
Superior Court of Sacramento County, Sacramento, CA

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