Case details

Intersection crash aggravated prior back injury, plaintiff alleged





Result type

Not present

back, herniated disc, lower back, lumbar, neck
On April 24, 2009, at approximately 11 a.m., plaintiff Helen Pettersen, 56, a sales clerk, was driving west on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, with three passengers, plaintiffs Ronnie Hernandez, Bernadette Phipps-Lincke and River Lange, a minor, in her vehicle. As they entered the intersection with Cole Avenue, Pettersen collided with a tow truck operated by Mohammad Ghaemi, who was making a left turn from eastbound Melrose Avenue onto Cole Avenue. Pettersen claimed an injury to her lower back, while the other passengers all claimed minor . Pettersen, Hernandez, Phipps-Lincke and Sheila Lange, acting as River’s guardian ad litem, sued Ghaemi and Ghaemi’s employer and owning entities of the truck, Community Auto Tow and Community Auto Services Inc. The plaintiffs alleged that Ghaemi was negligent in the operation of his vehicle, and that Community Auto Tow and Community Auto Services were vicariously liable for Ghaemi’s actions. Prior to trial, Community Auto Tow and Community Auto Services admitted liability for the accident, and Hernandez, Phipps-Lincke and Lange settled with the Community Auto defendants for $7,000, $7,500 and $1,600, respectively. In addition, Ghaemi was discontinued from the case, and Pettersen proceeded to a trial on damages and causation against the Community Auto defendants only., Pettersen was taken from the scene of the accident by ambulance and brought to an emergency room. She claimed an aggravation of a pre-existing lower back condition, including multiple lumbar disc herniations. Pettersen continued treating with orthopedic consultation and physical therapy when she returned to her home to Georgia. Pettersen claimed she still experiences residual pain and discomfort in her lower back, for which she will require future care and possible multi-level fusion surgery. She alleged that as a result, she is now restricted from bowling and dancing. Thus, Pettersen claimed $17,798 in past medical costs, and sought recovery of damages for her future medical costs and for her past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that an MRI of Pettersen’s spine mirrored a MRI taken before the accident. Thus, counsel argued that Pettersen did not sustain any serious injury from the accident, and that all of her complaints were related to her pre-existing lower back for which she was already seeking treatment.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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