Case details

Defense disputed cause of plaintiff’s back and neck injuries





Result type

Not present

back, bulging disc, cervical, lumbar, neck, neurological, radiculopathy
At around noon on Sept. 22, 2013, plaintiff Eneyda Villegas, 42, a gas station clerk, was driving her 2010 Jeep Patriot south on Interstate 110, also known as the Harbor Freeway and Transit Way, from Los Angeles. As she approached the vicinity of Carson, she took the transition exit ramp for Interstate 405, also known as the San Diego Freeway, which divided into two separate exits — one for the northbound 405 Freeway and one for the southbound 405 Freeway. At that juncture, Villegas exited toward the southbound 405 Freeway. At the same time, a tractor-trailer operated by Jorge Amador was in the lane adjacent to Villegas and also heading toward the southbound 405 Freeway. While Villegas and Amador were exiting, their vehicles merged into the same lane and collided, causing damage to the driver’s side of Villegas’ vehicle. No were reported at the scene, and the parties drove their respective vehicles away from the scene, but Villegas later claimed to her neck and back. Villegas sued Amador and Amador’s employer, MSTL Inc., a trucking company that also owned the tractor-trailer. Villegas alleged that Amador was negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer and that MSTL was liable for Amador’s actions while in the course and scope of his employment. Villegas claimed that Amador made an unsafe lane change. Specifically, she claimed that she was in the number three lane of a three-lane section of the freeway when Amador turned into her vehicle from the number two lane, located to her left, as he attempted to avoid striking another vehicle that cut him off. In addition, plaintiff’s counsel noted that the investigating officer found Amador to be at fault for the collision due to an unsafe lane change. Amador disputed the finding of the investigating officer, claiming that Villegas cut him off and collided with his vehicle., Villegas claimed she suffered cervical and lumber disc protrusions at the C5-6, L4-5 and L5-S1 levels. Although she did not report any at the scene of the collision, she later presented to a Kaiser facility seeking medical treatment for her back and neck pain one day later. Villegas’ former attorneys then referred her to an expert interventional neuroradiologist on May 9, 2014, approximately nine months after the collision. The treating expert, who performs minimally-invasive, endoscopic spine surgeries, examined Villegas and referred her out for MRIs of her neck and lower back. The neck MRI revealed no abnormalities except for a 2 millimeter central focal disc protrusion at C5-6, and the lumber MRI was normal at all levels except for a 2.8 millimeter broad-based disc protrusion at L4-5 and a 2.3 millimeter paracentral disc protrusion at L5-S1. Based on the findings, the plaintiff’s expert recommended surgery. On June 12, 2014, the plaintiff’s treating neuroradiology expert performed a minimally-invasive, endoscopic, spinal decompression surgery on Villegas’ lumbar spine at L4-5 and L5-S1. The treating expert then performed a rhizotomy on Aug. 13, 2014. In addition, epidural injections were administered both before and after the surgeries. Villegas’ final appointment with her treating neuroradiologist was in December 2015. Villegas received no additional medical treatment up after her December 2015 appointment with her treating neuroradiologist. However, Villegas claimed that she now suffers from lifelong, residual neck and lower back pain that prevents her from lifting, pulling and pushing most items. She alleged that as a result, she could not return to work as a gas station clerk. At trial, Villegas waived any loss-of-earnings claim, and sought to limit her damages to past medical expenses, and past and future general damages for her alleged pain and suffering. All of her medical treatments were on a lien basis, which totaled approximately $251,075. However, the vast majority of the bills were sold off to a factoring company at a significant discount. Villegas did not claim any future medical treatment. Defense counsel disputed causation, and the nature and extent of Villegas’ alleged damages. Counsel asserted that Villegas’ were degenerative and pre-existing. Prior to trial, the parties established a $600,000/$100,000 high/low agreement.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, West Covina, CA

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