Case details

Intersection crash caused neck injury, plaintiff driver claimed





Result type

Not present

bulging disc, cervical, neck
On March 24, 2011, plaintiff Thomas Duane, 49, a computer software designer at Cisco Systems Inc., was driving east on Bryant Street in San Francisco, accompanied by plaintiff Julie Talcott-Fuller, 42, a therapist, in the passenger seat. At approximately 8 a.m., while entering the intersection with 6th Street, their vehicle was struck by a pickup truck operated by Kwok Chi Lee, who had ran a red light on southbound 6th Street. Duane and Talcott-Fuller each claimed orthopedic from the accident. Duane and Talcott-Fuller sued Lee and Crime Watch Security Systems Inc., Lee’s employer and owner of the pickup truck. Duane and Talcott-Fuller alleged that Lee was negligent in the operation of the pickup truck and that Crime Watch was vicariously liable for Lee’s actions since Lee was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Lee and Crime Watch admitted liability and ultimately settled with Talcott-Fuller for $25,000 prior to mediation. The matter then proceeded to trial against Lee and Crime Watch on the sole question of Duane’s damages., Duane was taken by ambulance to an emergency room, where he complained of neck pain. Several months later, he noticed he was experiencing “ice hand,” in which his right, upper extremity experienced fluctuations in temperature. Duane subsequently treated with physical therapy, on-and-off, for several months. Duane claimed his neck pain impacted his ability to work and caused him to miss several months from his job at Cisco Systems. He also claimed his injury prevented him from riding his motorcycle or commuting via Caltrain due to the unbearable vibrations caused by both methods of transportation. Thus, Duane claimed he was forced to work from home and miss out on valuable face time at work. The plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon opined that Duane needed neck surgery to address changes to his cervical disc condition, as shown on MRIs taken before and after the accident. Thus, Duane sought recovery of roughly $700,000 in total damages, including $39,025 in past medical costs (based on the stipulated Howell amount), $216,413.97 in future medical costs, $56,496.66 in future lost earnings, and an unspecified amount for his pain and suffering. Defense counsel conceded that Duane sustained some injury in the accident, but argued that Duane’s own actions and the medical findings were inconsistent with any serious injury having occurred. Counsel contended that Duane’s post-accident treatment, particularly his physical therapy, was sporadic. Counsel also contended that he was cleared to return to work in July 2011, but had elected to undergo surgery for an unrelated, pre-existing condition, which explained a portion of his need to miss work post-accident. The defense counsel’s expert orthopedic surgeon rebutted the plaintiff’s expert’s interpretation of the MRI films. The defense expert found no post-accident change, and testified that Duane’s disc bulges existed on the pre-accident MRIs. Thus, defense counsel argued that in between the two MRIs, Duane had experienced a much more serious motorcycle accident, which was a more likely source of any discrepancies found in the post-accident MRI.
Superior Court of San Francisco County, San Francisco, CA

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