Case details

Defense: Manual labor, not crash, caused plaintiff’s injuries





Result type

Not present

back, decreased range of motion, neck, sprains, strains
On May 29, 2013, plaintiff Ruben Gomez, a groundskeeper in his 50s, was driving a 1984 GMC Sierra pickup truck on the eastbound side of East Dinuba Avenue, toward its intersection with South Hemlock Avenue, in Reedley. As he slowed his vehicle to yield to westbound traffic, before making a left turn onto South Hemlock Avenue, his vehicle’s rear was struck by a trailing 2010 Honda Civic that was being driven by Christina Christensen. Gomez claimed to sustain to his neck and back. Gomez sued Christensen, alleging that Christensen was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Christensen conceded liability, and the matter proceeded to an expedited jury trial–pursuant to C.C.P. § 630.1–that addressed damages., Gomez claimed that he sustained cervical and lumbar sprains and strains. He subsequently sought treatment from his workers’ compensation carrier’s clinic, where he presented with complaints of pain that stemmed from his neck and back. Gomez underwent a course of physical therapy, once-or-twice per week for a period of six weeks. He was also prescribed pain medication (tramadol). After his course of physical therapy ended, he did not receive further follow-up treatments, but continued his use of over-the-counter medications. Gomez contended that his prevented him from returning to work as a groundskeeper for more than two weeks. He also contended that his were traumatically-induced by the collision and that the pain in his back and neck is persistent and limits his range of motion. A workers’ compensation qualified medical examiner who specializes in physical rehabilitation testified via video that Gomez’s subjective complaints of pain were likely to have been caused by the crash. He also opined that Gomez should be allowed future conservative treatments and appointments with his physician. Prior to trial, Christensen’s insurance carrier agreed to purchase the workers’ compensation lien in the amount of $5,216.80. The parties stipulated at trial that Gomez’ past lost earnings were in the amount of $684.44. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel did not submit to the jury the amount of past medical specials or past lost wages. However, counsel asked the jury to award Gomez future medical costs and damages for Gomez’s pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that the impact was minor and that Christensen was operating her vehicle at a low rate of speed. Thus, counsel maintained that Gomez’s neck and back complaints were likely to have been caused by his work as a groundskeeper, a job that typically involves manual labor. The parties established a high/low agreement, in which new money damages could not exceed $19,783.20, but had to equal or exceed $4,000, plus unrecoverable costs.
Superior Court of Fresno County, Fresno, CA

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