Case details

Defense: Lateral impact did not cause medial tear to meniscus





Result type

Not present

knee, medial meniscus, right knee, tear
On July 26, 2011, plaintiff Daniel Meza, 39, an electrical heavy equipment operator, was working on a trolley platform near an alleyway on Hancock Street when he walked into the alleyway, allegedly near the intersection with Washington Street, and was struck by a vehicle operated by Adam Metzger. Meza claimed he injured his right knee. Meza sued Metzger; Metzger’s employer, Pacifica Companies LLC; and Metzger’s own business, which owned his vehicle, MTC Group Inc. Meza alleged that Metzger was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Pacifica Companies and MTC Group were vicariously liable for Metzger’s actions. Pacifica Companies was ultimately dismissed from the case, as Metzger was found not to be in the course and scope of his employment. Meza admitted that he was not looking when he walked into the alleyway, but claimed that Metzger was speeding. He claimed that because of the speed of the vehicle, his coworkers shouted at him to “watch out,” but that instead of turning, he walked into the road, as he was confused about his coworkers’ shouts. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert agreed that Metzger was traveling at a speed of 5 mph, but opined that Metzger came off of Washington Street at a high rate of speed, which drew attention to his vehicle before slowing to 5 mph when it was near Meza. The expert further opined that, regardless, Metzger should have been traveling slower in the alleyway because of workers doing construction. Metzger claimed that Meza stepped into the roadway directly into the path of his vehicle, which was turning into the entrance of a parking garage. Thus, defense counsel contended that Meza was negligent for stepping into the alleyway without looking; that Meza was not at an intersection, so he should have yielded the right of way to Metzger; and that Meza was close enough to the vehicle to constitute a hazard. Counsel also noted that there were other theories of negligence, such as whether the alleyway was one or two lanes. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert opined that Metzger was traveling at 5 mph at the time of the impact, which was a safe speed for the conditions of the alleyway. The expert also opined that the alleyway was one way and that Metzger was reasonably on the left side of the road in order to make a right, 90-degree turn into the garage entrance. In addition, the expert reconstructed the incident and showed that, in light of the conditions, it was proper for Metzger to make a left turn and to travel at the speed he was traveling for the alleyway., Meza was struck on his right knee. He claimed that he sustained a medial meniscus tear of his right knee and that this injury caused an aggravation of a prior left knee injury. Following the accident, Meza was treated by first aid from him employer, before being sent home that Friday. On the following Monday, Meza’s employer sent him to a medical facility. He was originally diagnosed with a contusion, but one week later, an MRI revealed a medial meniscus tear of the right knee. Meza subsequently underwent a few months of physical therapy, but his problems persisted. In addition, Meza claimed that due to the right knee injury, he began to favor his left side again, which aggravated pre-existing symptoms related to a prior tear of the left knee. In November 2011, Meza underwent a partial medial meniscectomy of the right knee. After the surgery, he continued with physical therapy and then underwent a series of three Synvisc-One injections to his right knee. However, he claimed that this also did not resolve his right knee problems, so he underwent a second arthroscopic surgery for his right knee in October 2013. Meza then underwent a few more months of physical therapy and then continued with home exercises, all the while he continued treatment for his left knee. Meza claimed he could not work from November 2011 to November 2013. He alleged that he had difficulty walking, bending, stooping and standing, and that he could not exercise. He also alleged that he can no longer squat to catch balls with one of his children who played baseball. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified that the speed of the impact would have been enough to cause Meza’s right knee injury. In addition, the plaintiff’s treating surgeon testified that the second surgery was necessary for treating Meza’s pain symptoms. Meza filed a workers’ compensation claim with his employer, and the workers’ compensation carrier ultimately settled with Metzger and MTC Group prior to trial. Thus, Meza sought recovery of damages against Metzger and MTC for the difference from what he normally earned and from what workers’ compensation covered, as well as sought recover of damages for his pain and suffering. Defense counsel noted that although Meza was struck on the lateral side of the meniscus, Meza claimed a meniscus tear on the medial side. Thus, counsel disputed that Meza had sustained a torn meniscus from the impact. Defense counsel argued that after the first surgery, Meza should have been able to return to work after six weeks, at the longest, and that Meza did not require the second surgery. Counsel also argued that the Synvisc-One injections are indicated to treat osteoarthritis, which would have been pre-existing for Meza, and that the second surgery was performed based only on Meza’s subjective pain complaints, as Meza had no instability or any objective complaints. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon noted that Meza did not report any pain in the medial meniscus until a few weeks after the accident, when Meza was squatting. Thus, the expert opined that Meza did not sustain a tear from the accident and that squatting was more likely to have caused Meza’s medial tear. In addition, the defense’s orthopedic expert opined that Meza only needed six weeks of treatment.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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