Case details

Intersection crash aggravated prior lower back condition: plaintiff





Result type

Not present

back, bulging disc, lower back, lumbar neck, neck, neurological, pain, radicular pain, radiculitis, soft tissue
On Dec. 31, 2012, plaintiff Francisco Romero, 45, a chef, was driving his 2008 Honda Accord with his fiancée and two children as passengers. Romero brought his vehicle to a stop at a stop sign on northbound Calhoun Street, in Coachella, before proceeding into the intersection with 50th Avenue, which was governed by four-way stop signs. However, as his vehicle was approximately one car-length from the stop sign, it was struck by a 2008 Ford F-150 truck operated by Miguel Romo, who was traveling on eastbound 50th Avenue. Romero claimed to his neck and back. The accident was investigated by the appropriate police agency, and a traffic collision report was prepared. Romero sued Romo; the registered owner of the truck, James Franco, Jr.; and Romo’s employer, Cali Built Construction. Romero alleged that Romo was negligent in the operation of the vehicle and that Franco and Cali Built were liable for Romo’s actions. Both Franco and Cali Built were ultimately dismissed from the case after stipulating that whatever verdict was against Romo, they would pay under their insurance. Thus the matter continued against Romo only. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Romo failed to stop for the stop sign and was inattentive. Counsel contended that as a result, Romero’s vehicle was struck on the left front door and tire area, and subsequently had to be towed from the scene of the accident. The vehicle was later declared a total loss, and the registered owner of the Honda Accord, Romero’s fiancée, was paid the sum of $16,000 by Romo’s insurer as a full and final settlement for the property damage to that vehicle. Romo acknowledged that, although familiar with the area, he was unaware that there was a stop sign controlling his direction of travel. He claimed that he was traveling at 25 mph in the number one lane of eastbound 50th Avenue, which had a posted speed limit of 55 mph, when he noticed the stop sign. He claimed that once he noticed the stop sign, he veered sharply to the right and applied his breaks, initially moderately and then heavy. However, Romo’s truck proceeded through the stop sign, entered the intersection, and stuck Romero’s vehicle. Romo’s truck sustained approximately $700 in damage to the left front portion. Due to the bumper being pushed into the tire, the truck had to be towed from the scene of the incident. Thus, Romo conceded liability., Romero claimed he began to experience some discomfort at the scene of the accident, but he was not provided any type of medical care and/or assistance at the scene. He claimed that as a result, he left the scene and proceeded to his fiancée’s residence, but he then began to experience pain in his lower back area that continued to increase in its severity during the day. Thus, Romero contended that his pre-existing degenerative disc disease, which was asymptomatic prior to the accident, became symptomatic, or an eggshell, resulting in the need for future surgery. Romero first sought medical care and treatment two days after the accident, on Jan. 2, 2013. At that time, he went to his treating chiropractor and complained of severe pain in his lower back, as well as pain and discomfort in his neck area. During the examination, the chiropractor noted bruising over Romero’s chest area and planned to have Romero undergo physical therapy and/or chiropractic treatment, which was designed to relieve Romero’s neck and lower back pain. However, when Romero continued to complain of severe pain in his lower back area after treating for approximately two months with his treating chiropractic expert, Romero was referred to Desert Medical Imaging for an MRI of his lumbar spine. The MRI took place on March 15, 2013, and it revealed degenerative changes in Romero’s lumbar spine as well as a disc bulge at L5-S1. As a result, Romero was referred to an expert neurosurgeon, whom Romero saw for the first time on or about April 17, 2013, and Romero was released by his treating chiropractic expert on April 23, 2013. He then returned to his treating neurosurgeon for a reevaluation on Dec. 6, 2013. At that time, it was determined that Romero should receive some trigger point and/or steroid injections due to the continuing pain and discomfort in his lower back area. Romero claimed that the reevaluations and steroid/trigger point injections from his neurosurgeon only provided him temporary relief from the lower back pain, which was, by that time, radiating into his left leg. He was then referred to Desert Medical Imaging for epidural injections in the lumbar spine, which allegedly also only provided him with temporary relief. As a result, Romero returned to Desert Medical Imaging on June 18, 2014, for a CT-guided steroid injection at the L5-S1 levels, but that the injection, once again, allegedly provided him with only temporary relief. Ultimately, Romero was referred to a pain management expert for a medical evaluation on Aug. 19, 2014. The treating pain management physician then provided Romero with certain recommendations in order to alleviate and/or reduce the alleged pain and discomfort in Romero’s lumbar spine. When Romero returned to the pain management physician on Nov. 12, 2014, he received a facet joint injection, as well as an epidural injection, into his lower spine at the L5-S1 area. However, Romero claimed that the injections again only provided him with temporary relief. As a result, on Dec. 4, 2014, the treating pain management physician discussed the various methods of treatment in order to alleviate the pain, including a radio frequency rhizotomy and surgical intervention. However, the treating pain management physician indicated that he would not provide Romero with any recommendations with regard to whether or not surgery should be performed and, instead, referred Romero to an expert neurosurgeon. As a result, Romero returned to his treating neurosurgeon on Feb. 20, 2015 for a reevaluation. The February 2015 reevaluation by the treating neurosurgeon was essentially the last visit that Romero had prior to trial. During the course of the examination, the treating neurosurgeon concluded that Romero was a viable candidate for a lumbar fusion at the L5-S1 level. The treating neurosurgeon estimated that the surgery would require a three to four day hospital stay. Romero testified that the pain involving his lumbar spine had gradually increased in severity to the point where he was no longer able to work beginning in January 2015. He claimed that he had initially attempted to continue working at his various jobs as a chef in the Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Indian Wells areas, but that he found that he was unable to continue with his occupation due to the fact that it required standing, which was extremely difficult due to his severe lower back pain. Thus, at the time of trial, Romero was no longer working. Romero further testified that his severe lower back pain and the pain radiating down his leg affected all of his daily activities. Thus, he claimed he could no longer walk, ride a bicycle, or enjoy the normal activities of daily life. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon conducted a very thorough medical record review of Romero on Nov. 7, 2014, as well as reviewed the reports pertaining to the MRI’s taken of Romero’s lumbar spine subsequent to the accident. The expert concluded that Romero sustained soft-tissue as a result of the subject incident. According to plaintiff’s counsel, the defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon testified that the medical care and treatment rendered to Romero — including the medical treatment provided by the treating chiropractor, Desert Medical Imagining, the pain management physician, and the treating neurosurgeon — were all reasonable and necessary. The defense’s expert also testified that had Romero been his patient, he would have suggested the same type of treatment that had previously been provided to Romero. However, the defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that Romero did not require surgical intervention and that there were various other types of tests that should be conducted prior to making a decision as to whether or not surgery was required, but testified that if the pain became so excruciating that Romero was unable to carry on with his daily activities, then surgery would then be appropriate.
Superior Court of Riverside County, Indio, CA

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