Case details

Defense: Minor impact did not cause disc protrusion





Result type

Not present

back, bulging disc, disc protrusion, lower back, lumbar, middle, neck, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On July 13, 2010, plaintiff Lorena Cervantes, 28, an employee of PT Plus Rehab, was driving south on Interstate 5, between the first and four exit in Orange County, when her vehicle was broadsided by a vehicle operated by Jasmine Ramos. The collision caused Cervantes’ vehicle to spin 360 degrees. She claimed to her neck, and middle and lower back. Cervantes sued Jasmine Ramos and the owners of her vehicle, Luisa Ramos and Fredrocrus Ramos. Cervantes alleged that Jasmine Ramos was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that Luisa and Fredrocrus Ramos were vicariously liable for Jasmine Ramos’ actions. Cervantes had initially also sued Timothy Porter, the driver of a vehicle that was in front of Jasmine Ramos and that was also involved in the accident. Porter’s deposition was taken, but he was ultimately dismissed from the case for a waiver of costs about two months prior to trial. Jasmine Ramos and the owners of her vehicle did not dispute liability., Cervantes claimed soft-tissue to her neck, and middle and lower back, with radiating pain from her lower back to her hip. She first sought medical treatment from her regular treating physician one month after the accident and was diagnosed with a 3- to 4-millimeter disc protrusion at L5-S1. Cervantes subsequently underwent eight months of chiropractic treatment and five orthopedic treatments/evaluations at Oasis Wellness Center in Laguna Niguel. She also presented to California Comprehensive Injury Institute in Laguna Niguel for eight visits (where she was treated by the same doctors as those at Oasis Wellness Center, including the plaintiff’s orthopedic surgery expert). Cervantes received a facet injection and an epidural injection to the back on July 2013, and a second epidural injection to her back a few weeks before trial. Cervantes claimed that her disc protrusion was caused by the subject accident and that it kept causing her pain. She alleged that as a result, she necessitates three epidural injections per year for the rest of her life or an expensive surgery. Cervantes and her sister were called as witnesses to testify as to the alleged terrible pain and suffering, and as to how the accident allegedly horribly affected their life. Specifically, they claimed that as a result of her , Cervantes had trouble with activities where she had to bend up and down, such as playing and taking care of her kids, and that Cervantes could no longer go to the Knots Berry Farm amusement park. Cervantes further claimed that the action was the only chance she had to get her medical bills paid and that she should get a future payment as a result. In addition, Cervantes’ counsel spent a good amount of time trying to establish the defense’s orthopedics expert as a “hired gun” and trying to claim that the defendants were trying to shirk their responsibility. Thus, Cervantes sought recovery of $27,442.93 in total medical costs, including $300 for a routine checkup, $6,055 for eight months of chiropractic treatment, $1,600 for an MRI, $2,325 for the five orthopedic treatments/evaluations at Oasis Wellness Center, $5,527.50 for the eight orthopedic treatments/evaluations at California Comprehensive Injury Institute, $6,666 for the facet injection, and $4,969.43 for the epidural injection on July 2013. (The amounts of her second epidural injection were not in evidence.) Cervantes also sought recovery for her future medical costs, including $7,500 to 9,000 for each future epidural injection (which she claimed she required three a year for rest of her life) and $77,000 to $92,000 for the future back surgery. She sought recovery for her past loss of earnings as a result of missing 20 days of work, as well as sought recovery for her future loss of earnings as a result of the additional medical treatment she allegedly required. In addition, Cervantes sought recovery of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel noted that Cervantes was not taken by ambulance to a hospital following the accident nor did she seek any other medical treatment that day. Counsel also noted that Cervantes did not seek any medical treatment until she presented to her regular treating physician one month after the crash and that the repair estimate for Cervantes’ vehicle was only $3,343.75. Thus, defense counsel argued that Cervantes provided no evidence that established the mechanism of injury that would cause a disc protrusion from this relatively minor accident. The defense’s orthopedics expert opined that the L5-S1 disc protrusion was a pre-existing issue and that there was no evidence to support a disc protrusion caused by the accident. The expert testified that there were some significant gaps in treatment (seven months here, one year there, and numerous instances where there were a few months between treatments). The expert further testified that Cervantes did not always listen to her doctor’s recommendations, such as Cervantes ignoring recommended follow-up visits with her chiropractor and orthopedist. In addition, defense counsel disputed the amount of costs and damages sought by Cervantes. Counsel contended that there were significant costs for numerous reports that merely existed to assist with litigation and that a reasonable amount for Cervantes’ past medical costs, minus the cost of those reports, would be $18,196, which would be for the treatment Cervantes received up until March 2012, when her own doctor at Oasis Wellness Center and California Comprehensive Injury Institute stopped recommending epidural injections. Defense counsel also contended that although Cervantes stated, during trial, that she missed 20 days of work, Cervantes was impeached when a letter from her employer was presented, showing that Cervantes only missed 20 hours of work. As such, defense counsel argued that Cervantes’ total loss of earnings only amounted to $245. In addition, counsel argued that Cervantes should only be awarded $6,000 for her pain and suffering, and nothing for her future treatment or future loss of earnings, as Cervantes had not established the disc protrusion was related to the accident.
Superior Court of Orange County, Santa Ana, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case