Case details

Driver claimed pedestrian saw reversing truck, but didn’t move





Result type

Not present

injuries, left foot, lower back, numbness, pain, right arm, tingling down left leg
Between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. on April 19, 2013, plaintiff Kathryn Scudder, 47, a T.V. account executive, was standing in the street of Third Street, in San Francisco, between Harrison and Folsom Streets, attempting to hail a taxicab to take her to the Oakland Airport. She was ultimately struck from behind by a reversing 2013 Ford F-150 truck operated by Steven Johnson. Scudder was bumped by the truck, causing her to fall forward and land on her hands and knees. The parties exchanged information at the scene, and Scudder was eventually able to procure a cab ride to the airport. When she arrived at the airport, authorities were contacted and a report was prepared. Scudder claimed to her right arm and lower back. Scudder sued Johnson, alleging that Johnson was negligent in the operation of his truck. Johnson claimed that his truck was equipped with a backup camera and backup sensors. He also claimed that he checked his rear view mirrors and backup camera before backing out of a parallel parking space on Third Street and saw nothing behind him. He alleged that he had backed up a minimum of 13 feet when he heard a bump toward the rear of his truck. Thus, Johnson testified that he never saw Scudder prior to the impact. Defense counsel contended that despite Scudder testifying that she was worried for her safety, Scudder was negligent for standing in the street. Counsel also noted that there was a statement attributable to Scudder in the police report in which Scudder said that she actually saw the truck backing up toward her before she turned her back to it to go back to hailing a cab., Scudder was examined by paramedics at the Oakland Airport, and she was cleared to fly. She subsequently flew to Southern California and was seen in urgent care center later that night. The radiology report from the X-rays taken showed that Scudder had sustained a non-displaced fracture of the radial neck of her right, dominant arm. Scudder also claimed that she suffered from lower back pain, causing numbness and tingling down her left leg and into her left foot, within a week of being struck. Scudder testified that the first complaint of pain was 11 days after she was hit by the truck, before she went to go see her general practitioner. She did an initial round of physical therapy and then went on to have two MRIs of her lumbar spine, which revealed abnormalities at the lower three levels. Scudder claimed that prior to the incident, she was a marathon runner and had participated in triathlons, but that her now affect her ability to do that. As a result, she continues to treat with a physical therapist for her continued back pain. The plaintiff’s retained medical experts opined that the abnormalities, the most significant of which was an annular fissure at L4-5, were caused by the incident. The plaintiff’s retained orthopedic surgery expert opined that Scudder would require, at a minimum, a single level lumbar fusion. However, he testified that he would need a discogram done before determining whether or not adjacent levels would have to be included in the procedure. The expert also testified that depending on how many levels needed to be included in the surgery, the cost of the procedure was estimated to be between $125,000 and $200,000. Scudder was a T.V. sales executive, making around $250,000 a year. Thus, the plaintiff’s expert economist testified regarding Scudder’s lost commissions during the year of the accident due to time missed from work to attend physical therapy sessions. He estimated that Scudder lost somewhere between $23,000 and $53,000. Thus, in closing, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Scudder between $2,017,876 and $2,115,876. Defense counsel contended that Scudder’s medical records made no reference to numbness and tingling down her left leg until more than a year after the accident. The defense’s retained medical experts opined that all of the findings on the MRIs were degenerative in nature and did not necessarily correlate with Scudder’s symptoms. The defense’s retained orthopedic surgeon opined that Scudder did not sustain a significant injury to her back as a result of the incident because Scudder did not begin to experience symptoms within the first 24 to 48 hours. It was his opinion that Scudder’s back complaints were the result of a myriad of factors, which primarily included the fact that Scudder has benign hypermobility syndrome and that her reduced activity levels following the accident caused the condition to become symptomatic. Defense counsel contended that in the months following the accident, the medical records indicated that Scudder’s condition would improve the more active she was. However, plaintiff’s counsel denied that the medical records showed that Scudder improved. The defense’s orthopedic surgeon and retained radiologist both testified that Scudder would not benefit from surgical intervention. Defense counsel did not have a retained economist, but attacked the plaintiff’s economist’s opinions on the fact that he allegedly relied on inaccurate information.
Superior Court of San Francisco County, San Francisco, CA

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