Case details

Mechanical failure caused sudden lane change: defense





Result type

Not present

arm, back, bruise, chest, hands, head, left arm, neck, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis, shoulder
On Jan. 26, 2012, at approximately 2:05 p.m., plaintiff Kathy Stone, 49, a district manager for South West Water, was driving her sport utility vehicle in the number one (left) lane of westbound Skyway Road in Paradise, on her way to the Willows Water Facility, when she noticed a 2006 Dodge Ram pickup truck, operated by John Martin, veer from the number two (right) lane of eastbound Skyway Road into the number one lane, before continuing into the number one lane of westbound Skyway Road. As the truck entered Stone’s lane of travel, it was pitched sideways. Stone claimed that she could not go left or right due to traffic on both sides, so she used her brakes, but was unable to avoid impact with the truck obstructing her lane of travel. As a result, the front of her SUV hit the rear side of Martin’s truck, causing Stone’s air bag to deploy and her vehicle’s windows to shatter. Stone’s SUV also began to emit white smoke. Stone claimed to her head, chest, hands, left arm and shoulder, neck, and back. Stone sued John Martin (who was initially erroneously sued as “James” Martin). Stone alleged the defendant was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Stone disputed Martin’s claim that his truck experienced a mechanical failure. Stone claimed that she did not hear or notice anything unusual about Martin’s truck prior to the collision. Plaintiff’s counsel presented testimony from the owner of the facility that repaired Martin’s pickup truck after the accident. The facility owner testified that he inspected Martin’s truck and saw no evidence that either the brakes or rear-end had locked up. Martin claimed that his truck’s rear tire locked and suddenly shot him into oncoming traffic without him steering. He also claimed that the sudden and unexpected mechanical failure was addressed to the responding/investigating police officer. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert testified that Martin’s truck most likely encountered a sudden mechanical failure of the differential in the rear axle. Defense counsel presented testimony from an independent eyewitness who claimed that the rear tire on Martin’s truck locked and skid on the pavement just before it veered sideways into oncoming traffic. Defense counsel also noted that Stone admitted that Martin’s truck was too far away for her to notice anything wrong when it first lost control and that she remembered the responding officer mention a mechanical failure., Stone claimed bruising to her chest, hands, and left arm and shoulder from the impact. She also claimed neck, upper and mid-back pain, and stiffness and soreness with swelling and redness. Stone was subsequently taken by ambulance to an emergency room for treatment. She then followed up with her primary care physician on Feb. 2, 2012, and was ultimately diagnosed with left, upper extremity radiculitis, as well as with a degenerative cervical spine with associated cervical and thoracic strains and sprains. Stone treated her with eight weeks of physical therapy. Stone claimed that despite treatment she still suffers ongoing neck and back pain, as well as ongoing cervicogenic headaches. She alleged that her left, upper extremity symptoms have resolved, but that her neck and back condition has worsened, with the severity of her symptoms varying daily. Stone further alleged that she continues to suffer a red rash with swelling on the right side of her upper back, near the trapezius and rhomboid muscles. Stone claimed that as a result of her , she experiences ongoing pain when sitting — such as when she is driving — and that she has difficulty at work and can no longer play golf. As a result, the plaintiff’s treating neurosurgeon recommended cervical facet injections and possible ablation treatment. Thus, Stone sought recovery of roughly $9,000 in past medical costs. She also sought recovery of general damages for a lifetime of pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that Stone suffered a flexion-extension injury superimposed on pre-existing, degenerative changes of her spine. Counsel contended that Stone was involved in an accident five years before the subject accident and had prior complaints of neck pain. Defense counsel ultimately stipulated to Stone’s past medical costs, and purchased Stone’s workers’ compensation lien.
Superior Court of Butte County, Chico, CA

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