Case details

Defense disputed severity of spinal injuries alleged





Result type

Not present

back, cervical, herniated disc, lumbar, neck
On June 29, 2011, plaintiff Carlos Castellanos, 34, a pharmaceutical sales representative, was stopped in traffic in his company-owned 2008 Ford Escape on northbound Bundy Drive in West Los Angeles. Subsequently, Castellanos’ vehicle was rear-ended by a 2005 Audi A4 operated by Lily Ashwell. As a result, Castellanos claimed to his neck, back and right foot. Castellanos sued Lily Ashwell and the owner of the Audi, Lily Ashwell’s mother, Rachel Ashwell. Castellanos alleged that Lily Ashwell was negligent in the operation of the vehicle, and that Rachel Ashwell was vicariously liable for her daughter’s actions and was negligent in the entrustment of the Audi to her daughter. Defense counsel moved for nonsuit on Castellano’s negligent entrustment claim, and it was granted. Castellanos claimed his vehicle was hit hard and estimated the impact occurred when Lily Ashwell was traveling at 35 to 40 mph. Thus, he claimed the impact caused his body to move violently within the vehicle. Lily Ashwell claimed she stopped about a foot away from the rear of Castellanos’ vehicle when her water bottle fell on the floor and her foot accidentally came off the brake as she attempted to retrieve the bottle. Thus, she claimed her vehicle only impact Castellanos’ vehicle at 4 to 5 mph., Castellanos claimed back and neck , as well as a right drop foot injury. Following the accident, Castellanos called his employer, who suggested he drive to their worker’s compensation urgent care clinic to be evaluated. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Pablo Pazmino, opined that Castellanos sustained cervical and lumbar disc herniations as a result of the subject collision. Castellanos ultimately underwent physical therapy from the beginning of July 2011 through Dec. 19, 2011. Castellanos claimed he still has neck and back pain, as well as the drop foot injury. For treatment, he occasionally takes ibuprofen and has prescriptions for Celebrex and Soma, which he claimed he will require for the rest of his life. He also claimed he might require future lumbar injections and/or surgery. Castellanos took off work from mid-September 2011 until early January 2012. However, he claimed he cannot work as much anymore, as his foot goes numb and he is scared to drive as much. Accordingly, Castellanos claimed he is no longer highly ranked in sales for his region due to his inability to work and his failure to meet his quotas. The plaintiff’s expert economist opined, based on the plaintiff’s vocational rehabilitation expert’s plan, that Castellanos will suffer $2.3 million in lost of earnings, as well as $390,000 in future medical care for yearly MRIs, physical therapy and yoga. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award $750,000 for Castellanos’ pain and suffering during his life expectancy of up to 83 years old, as well as to award Castellanos $50 per day for 15,000 days. The parties stipulated that Castellanos’ past medical costs amount to $5,464. The defense’s biomechanical expert opined that, based upon everything she saw, the impact was a 5-mph impact versus a 40-mph impact. Thus, the expert opined that Castellanos’ alleged could not have resulted from the 4-to-5-mph impact. The defense’s biomechanical expert also disputed the forces involved, opining that there were horizontal forces involved, as opposed to the vertical forces alleged by the plaintiff’s expert orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Arthur Kreitenberg, who defense counsel noted had only taken a few graduate courses in biomechanics. Thus, defense counsel argued that Castellanos suffered no herniations and had the same MRI that 98 percent of people would have. The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert opined that Castellanos’ herniations did not exist or were not related to the subject accident. The expert also opined that it was possible that Castellanos sustained a lumbar and cervical sprain/strain, but that the plaintiff should have recovered in four to six weeks due the physical therapy and examinations. However, the defense’s expert testified that he did not think Castellanos’ MRIs were anything but normal. The expert further opined that Castellanos, who had a family history of diabetes, should have a complete work-up for diabetes because he could have diabetic neuropathy, since Castellanos claimed he did not have reflexes in his arms or legs. However, plaintiff’s counsel noted that in the recorded independent medical exam, which was played for the jury, the defense’s orthopedic surgery expert had ruled out diabetes. Defense counsel further disputed Castellanos’ loss-of-earnings claim. The defense’s vocational rehabilitation expert opined that Castellanos’ loss of earnings stopped in January 2012, prior to him returning to work. In addition, defense counsel asserted that Castellanos was making $112,000 per year and should only be awarded $51,000, if anything, for the four months of work he took off.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, CA

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