Case details

High-speed rear-ender aggravated injuries, plaintiff alleged





Result type

Not present

back, left knee, neck, stenosis
In late evening of Nov. 19, 2010, plaintiff Robert Whitelaw, 57, was driving north on the Ventura Freeway, in Los Angeles. As he was traveling at a speed of approximately 60 miles per hour, Whitelaw’s vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Joshua Holtzman, who traveling in excess of 130 mph. The force of the impact caused Whitelaw’s vehicle to spin and strike the freeway’s concrete center divider. Whitelaw claimed to his back and left knee. Holtzman was arrested at the scene and pleaded no contest to driving under the influence. Whitelaw sued Holtzman and the owner of Holtzman’s Saab, Therese Funk. Whitelaw alleged that Holtzman was negligent in the operation of the Saab and that Funk negligently entrusted Holtzman with the Saab. Funk was ultimately dismissed the case after the court granted defense counsel’s motion in limine, which precluded plaintiff’s counsel from presenting evidence of negligent entrustment. Holtzman conceded liability prior to trial., Whitelaw declined emergency treatment at the scene. Several weeks later, he was admitted to a UCLA hospital with complaints of pain to his head, back, left shoulder, and left knee. Whitelaw also complained of numbness in the fingers of his left hand. He was subsequently examined and prescribed pain medication. MRI studies revealed osteoarthritis in Whitelaw’s left knee and spinal stenosis at the L3-4 level. As a result, he continued to treat with an orthopedic spine specialist. Ultimately, several days before trial, Whitelaw received an epidural injection of a steroid-based painkiller at the L3-4 level. Whitelaw claimed the accident aggravated his pre-existing back condition, causing the spinal stenosis of the lumbar spine. He also claimed the accident caused or aggravated his left knee condition. Whitelaw alleged that as a result, he sometimes requires a walker to ambulate. He also alleged that he will require additional epidural injections, in addition to a lumbar fusion and a total knee replacement. The plaintiff’s treating internal medicine doctor, who treated Whitelaw both before and after the subject accident, testified that Whitelaw did not have any pain complaints until after the accident. Thus, Whitelaw’s counsel asked the jury to award economic damages of $1,321,458.20, which included $293,000 in future medical expenses, $21,000 in property damage to his vehicle, $1,500 for the loss of use of his vehicle, $680,851.61 in past lost wages, and $325,106.68 in future lost earnings. (Whitelaw initially alleged that a cigarette burn he sustained during the accident developed into lip cancer. However, this claim was withdrawn prior to trial.) Defense counsel argued that Whitelaw had only sustained whiplash , which had ultimately resolved prior to trial. Counsel also contended that Whitelaw was unable to provide documentary evidence to support his claim of lost income. The defense’s emergency medicine specialist described his initial examination of Whitelaw and opined that Whitelaw’s were only minor whiplash sprains and strains of the upper back.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Pasadena, CA

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