Case details

Defense disputed crash caused plaintiffs’ alleged injuries





Result type

Not present

bulging disc, cervical elbow, glenoid labrum, neck, neurological, radiculopathy, shoulder, tear
On April 2, 2015, plaintiff Xavier Powell, 45, a college student, was driving on Slauson Avenue, in Culver City. Plaintiff Anthony Hall, 47, was sitting in the front, passenger seat. Powell entered an intersection’s left-turn lane in an attempt to turn onto Hannum Avenue. Shortly after the traffic light turned green, her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Dolly Lemus. Powell claimed to her neck, back, and left knee and elbow. Hall claimed to his neck, back and right shoulder. Powell and Hall filed separate lawsuits against Lemus. They claimed that Lemus was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. The two lawsuits were consolidated, but Hall ultimately settled his claim prior to trial for $50,000. Lemus claimed Powell started moving forward to make the left turn and then stopped suddenly, but Powell denied stopping prior to the collision. Lemus ultimately conceded liability, and the trial solely addressed causation and damages., Powell was seen by paramedics at the scene, but she declined transportation to a hospital. However, later that day, she presented to Cedars-Sinai Marina Del Rey Hospital, where she was treated and released. Powell was diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy and a bulging cervical disc at the C5-6 level. She also claimed the crash aggravated her pre-existing lumbar levoscoliosis, a type of scoliosis in which the spine twists and curves toward the left side of the body in a “C” shape, as her condition had allegedly been under control prior to the accident. In addition, Powell claimed she suffered soft tissue to her left knee and elbow. In later 2015, Powell received one epidural steroid injection to her lumbar spine and another to her cervical spine. However, she had a reaction to one of the injections, allegedly causing her to lose her hair and gain weight. She also underwent chiropractic treatment and physical therapy. The plaintiff’s expert biomechanical engineer testified that the force involved in the crash created a delta-V of 8 to 10 mph. The expert opined that the alleged amount of force created exposure for a cervical injury and possibly a lumbar injury. The plaintiff’s expert orthopedist opined that Powell’s cervical disc bulge was a result of the subject accident. Powell claimed that as a result of her , she can no longer go on walks as she did prior to the crash. She also claimed that she exercises less frequently and can’t lift heavy items, such as laundry or groceries. She further claimed that she still has occasional pain in her left elbow. Powell sought recovery of $70,488.60 in past medical expenses and $198,755 in future medical expenses. The latter number included $31,000 for a diagnostic knee arthroscopy, $141,495 for a cervical fusion surgery, $2,700 for post-surgery physical therapy, $12,445 for facet joint injections and $11,115 for nerve block testing. In addition, Powell sought recovery of non-economic damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Hall’s alleged and damages were not before the court. He had also declined transport to a hospital from the scene and had also reported to Cedars-Sinai Marina Del Rey Hospital later that day. He was diagnosed with to his neck and back, and he also claimed a labral tear in his right shoulder. Hall was treated at the hospital and released. He then underwent three months of chiropractic treatment, followed by three months of physical therapy. In late 2015, he received two epidural injections of a steroid-based painkiller to his lumbar spine. Hall’s doctors recommended shoulder surgery, but Hall never underwent the procedure nor did he follow up with any further treatment to the shoulder. Hall was also advised that he could either manage his back pain conservatively or undergo a lumbar microdiscectomy. He ultimately chose not to proceed with the surgery, but claimed that he would need additional epidural injections in his back. Hall initially sought recovery of $36,279.31 in past medical expenses, but the defense pointed out that Hall was involved in a prior car accident in June 2012, and two additional crashes in April 2015 and November 2017. In addition, the defense’s independent medical examiner, an expert orthopedist, opined that Hall likely sustained soft tissue and contusions in the subject crash and that the should have resolved in 10 to 12 weeks with conservative treatment. He estimated that the reasonable value of this treatment was $4,464. However, Hall settled his claim prior to trial, so his alleged and damages, as well as the defense’s arguments regarding Hall’s and damages, were not before the court. At trial, the defense’s expert biomechanical engineer testified that the force of the crash created a delta-V of 6 to 8 mph. He opined that most people aren’t injured in accidents with that level of force and that those who are injured typically sustain minor neck sprains. Defense counsel pointed out that Powell complained of neck pain and radiculopathy following a 2004 car accident and that Powell was involved in two subsequent crashes in October 2015 and January 2017. Counsel specifically pointed to a settlement demand letter that Powell submitted as part of litigation for the October 2015 accident. Per the defense, the letter included the same and treatment that Powell alleged following the April 2015 crash. As a result, defense counsel disputed whether any of Powell’s’ alleged medical expenses were related to the subject accident. The defense’s expert orthopedist opined that Powell sustained a mild sprain and/or strain to the cervical spine as a result of the subject crash and that it should have resolved in two or three months. He also opined that Powell’s only necessary medical treatments were the emergency room visit, eight to 10 weeks of chiropractic care or physical therapy, one visit to a specialist, two follow-up appointments, and cervical and lumbar X-rays and MRIs. The expert opined that the cost of that treatment only totaled $4,663. In addition, the expert opined that the spinal injections were not medically necessary, that the knee injury was not related to the crash, and that Powell did not require any future care as a result of the accident. The defense’s expert neuroradiologist opined that there were no signs of an acute injury to Powell’s spine or left knee and that Powell’s cervical disc bulge was degenerative and not caused by the accident. The defense’s medical billing expert testified that while Powell claimed she had been charged approximately $36,000 for the spinal injections, the procedures should have cost only $2,752.28.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys, CA

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