Case details

Multiple vehicle crash caused traumatic brain injury: plaintiff





Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, face, facial, fracture, jaw, nose, traumatic brain injury
On Nov. 3, 2012, plaintiff Russell Sheaffer, 24, a Ph.D. student at Indiana University who was in California working on a documentary, was operating his Toyota Solora while stopped behind two other vehicles on southbound Interstate 15, in Escondido. Two other vehicles subsequently stopped behind his Solora when a 35,000-pound Freightliner tanker truck, traveling at high speeds, crashed into the rear vehicle of the line of five vehicles. As a result, the tanker truck caused a chain-reaction, whereby Sheaffer’s vehicle was ultimately struck from behind, causing his driver’s seat to break, before being propelled into the larger sport utility vehicle in front of him. He sustained multiple head , including multiple fractures to his jaw and face as well as a concussion. Sheaffer sued the operator of the tanker truck, Thomas Mose, and Mose’s employer, NuCO2 Inc. Sheaffer alleged that Mose was negligent in the operation of the tanker truck and that NuCO2 was vicariously liable for Mose’s actions. The defendants ultimately admitted liability., Sheaffer sustained multiple head , including a concussion and multiple fractures to his jaw and face. He also sustained a mild complex/moderate traumatic brain injury, causing him to be repetitive at the scene of the accident and amnestic of the event. However, a later CT scan of the head was negative, with a Glasgow coma scale score of 15 at scene (normal) and no evidence of loss of consciousness. Sheaffer was subsequently hospitalized for three days before being discharged after undergoing surgery. His jaw was also wired shut for eight weeks and he required subsequent surgical interventions for pain and malocclusion, including a modified condylotomy. Thereafter, he treated with pain medication, the use of a pain stimulator, physical therapy, craniofacial massage therapy, splint therapy, and psychotherapy. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the traumatic brain injury, which includes a lesion in the hippocampus, adversely affected Sheaffer’s memory and ability to cope with his jaw . Sheaffer had been married since June 3, 2012. After the accident, he continued in his Ph.D. program, received nearly a 4.0 grade point average, and completed the program. He then received a fellowship and was named one of 110 film students to watch by Variety magazine two weeks before trial. He attended numerous film festivals throughout the world, as well as organized and ran several film festivals. In addition, he taught undergraduate and graduate classes, and never missed a day since the accident. However, Sheaffer claimed that he struggled to complete his Ph.D. coursework and had doubts that he could complete his dissertation due to his cognitive difficulties. He allegedly required special accommodations from his professors to pass his classes and Ph.D. examinations. He also claimed that most of the awards and accomplishments received post-accident were a result of work he had done pre-accident. Although he continued to remain active, Sheaffer claimed he did so out of obligation and with pain and difficulty. Sheaffer alleged that trauma from the incident could lead to ischemic bone disease/osteoarthritis of the jaw, as well as deterioration and degeneration of the condyles and mandible. He alleged that as a result, future surgical procedures, and continued care and therapies will be required for his jaw and chronic pain. In addition, according to defense counsel, the plaintiff’s treating dentist presented a life care plan at trial that approximated $5 million, including costs for numerous future surgeries. Defense counsel presented three expert witnesses, including a neuroradiologist, a neuropsychologist, and an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, all of whom disputed the nature and extent of Sheaffer’s . Counsel contended that a small dot on Sheaffer’s MRI, which was performed two years after the accident, was an artifact and not a lesion. Counsel also contended that Sheaffer had a concussion, which should have resolved within three months. Defense counsel further disputed Sheaffer’s claim of a permanent traumatic brain injury, arguing that, instead, Sheaffer suffered from a somatoform disorder that caused him to believe he was still suffering from cognitive issues, although any cognitive complaints were unintentionally believed. Defense counsel noted that although the plaintiff’s treating dentist presented a life care plan at trial that approximated $5 million, the treating dentist testified in deposition that Sheaffer would not need any future surgeries and opined that Sheaffer’s medical costs only totaled $30,000. In addition, defense counsel asserted that Sheaffer continued to be successful after the incident and that Sheaffer’s did not impair his earning capacity or greatly affect his life.
Superior Court of San Diego County, Vista, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case