Case details

Intersection crash caused orthopedic injuries: plaintiffs





Result type

Not present

bruise, chest
On the morning of Dec. 29, 2009, plaintiff Deborah Tornambe, 55, was driving her sport utility vehicle on southbound Alameda Street in South Lake Tahoe, accompanied by her daughters, plaintiff Francesca Tornambe, 22, in the front passenger seat, and plaintiff Gianna Tornambe, 15, in the rear of the vehicle. At approximately 10 a.m., while crossing the T-intersection with Nevada Avenue, the Tornambe vehicle broadsided the passenger side of a vehicle operated by Jeannette Stern, who was traveling on westbound Nevada Avenue. Deborah Tornambe and her daughters each claimed orthopedic from the accident. The Tornambes sued Ms. Stern and the owner of the Ms. Stern’s vehicle, Michael Stern, her husband. The Tornambes alleged that Ms. Stern was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that her husband was vicariously liable for his wife’s actions. Specifically, the Tornambes claimed that Ms. Stern failed to yield and violated their right of way at the T-intersection. The Sterns admitted liability for the purposes of arbitration., Deborah Tornambe, claimed that within hours of the accident, she experienced a new burning pain in her neck and upper back, which progressed into severe mid-back spasms and disabling neck stiffness and pain. In the years prior to the accident, Deborah Tornambe experienced periodic neck and back pain stemming from muscle spasms, which she had treated with physical therapy and pain medication. She alleged that she had an episode one week before the accident, which she treated with an epidural injection. However, she claimed that since the subject accident, she has undergone treatment consisting of physical therapy, acupuncture, epidural steroid injections and medication. Deborah Tornambe also underwent a breast reduction to alleviate pain and discomfort, but claimed the spasms, burning and stiffness have been unremitting. She further claimed her problems have been compounded by side effects of, and a dependency on, her powerful pain medication. Deborah Tornambe claimed she is no longer the independent, active, fun-loving wife, mother and friend she once was. Her pain management physician testified that Deborah Tornambe would have an ongoing, but undefinable, need for care that was substantially caused by the aggravation of the South Tahoe crash. Thus, Deborah Tornambe sought recovery of $154,997.34 in past medical costs, and an unspecified amount of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. The front seat passenger in the Tornambe vehicle, Francesca Tornambe, claimed she developed stiffness in her neck and across her trapezius to her right shoulder. She also claimed pain in her back and right hip, as well as a chest bruise from her seat belt. She alleged that after physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care and pain medication, her symptoms have mostly resolved, even though she still has some intermittent lower back pain and stiffness. Thus, she sought recovery of $8,754.67 in past medical costs and an unspecified amount for her pain and suffering. The rear seat passenger in the Tornambe vehicle, Gianna Tornambe, was the only plaintiff taken to an emergency room from the scene of the accident. She was subsequently treated and released with muscle relaxers. She claimed that her condition resolved after a few weeks. Thus, she sought recovery of $3,089.28 in past medical costs and an unspecified amount for her past pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that there was no change in Deborah Tornambe’s condition on her MRI taken before and after the crash. Thus, counsel argued that Deborah Tornambe’s ongoing problems were the natural sequence of her pre-existing conditions. The defense’s orthopedic expert testified that, at worst, Deborah Tornambe had a flare-up of the pre-existing condition that should have lasted no more than six months, which would have been treated with $3,000 of physical therapy. Regarding Francesca Tornambe, the defense’s orthopedic expert offered that Francesca Tornambe had a sprain/strain of her neck and hip, which also should have resolved within six months and with $3,000 of physical therapy. Thus, defense counsel argued that the plaintiffs’ total claim was in the range of $15,000.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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