Case details

Near head-on collision caused need for cervical fusion: plaintiff





Result type

Not present

back, cervical, fusion, neck, nerve impingement, neurological
On May 8, 2009, plaintiff Hobert Tiller, a truck driver in his 50s, was driving a tractor-trailer loaded with jet fuel on Highway 41 in Fresno. At approximately 11 a.m., Tiller was involved in a near head-on collision with a sport utility vehicle operated by Jason Lundy, who was traveling in the opposite direction on Highway 41. Lundy, who had fallen asleep at the wheel and had veered into Tiller’s lane of travel, struck the front, driver side corner of the truck’s cab and then side swiped the driver side of Tiller’s trailer. Tiller claimed to his neck and back. Tiller sued Jason Lundy; the registered owners of the vehicle, Raymond and Joyce Lundy, who are Jason Lundy’s parents; and Jason Lundy’s employer, RGIS, LLC. Tiller alleged that Jason Lundy was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Raymond and Joyce Lundy were vicariously liable for their son’s actions. Tiller also alleged that RGIS was vicariously liable for the actions of Jason Lundy, who was still within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Tiller’s worker’s compensation carrier, Federal Insurance Co., filed a separate claim against the Lundys and RGIS, seeking reimbursement of paid benefits for Tiller’s worker’s compensation claim. The two cases were consolidated. Tiller’s counsel contended that Jason Lundy caused the accident by veering into oncoming traffic after he fell asleep behind the wheel. Counsel also contended that Tiller sustained the most severe attempting to exit the cab since Jason Lundy’s SUV tore off the step on Tiller’s cab, which resulted in Tiller falling out of the cab and onto the ground. The defendants admitted liability for the accident., Six days after the accident, Tiller went to an emergency room with complaints of severe neck and lower back pain. He was diagnosed with an impinged nerve in his cervical spine at the C5-6 level. On Aug. 11, 2011, Tiller underwent a cervical fusion at C5-6, which was unsuccessful in relieving his condition. He then underwent a second cervical fusion on Sept. 12, 2013, which was deemed successful. Tiller also treated with chiropractic care and physical therapy for roughly one year, pre- and post-surgeries, and received epidural injections to his neck. Tiller claimed some minor ongoing neck residuals, mostly involving reduced range of motion. He claimed he will require physical therapy and chiropractic treatment on an as-need basis, as well as pain medication for the remainder of his life. Tiller claimed he worked throughout 2009, but was taken off duty by his worker’s compensation physician in 2010 and has not returned to work since. He is now on social security disability after being paid his worker’s compensation disability benefits in full. Tiller further claimed he is now prohibited from hunting, which was his favorite hobby before the accident. Tiller’s past medical costs were covered by his worker’s compensation benefits. Thus, he sought recovery of damages for his pain and suffering. His wife, Candace Tiller, presented a loss-of-consortium claimed, but ultimately did not pursue it. Federal Insurance sought recovery of $133,000 (ongoing), which included $41,500 for indemnity and $91,500 for medical costs. Defense counsel argued that Mr. Tiller suffered from a degenerative, pre-existing neck condition and that Mr. Tiller only suffered a minor whiplash injury from the subject accident. As such, defense counsel asserted that Mr. Tiller’s surgeries were unnecessary and unrelated to the accident, and should not have been performed. In response, plaintiff’s counsel contended that Mr. Tiller underwent both an independent medical exam and an agreed medical exam (through worker’s compensation) and that both exams determined that the neck injury sustained in the motor vehicle accident caused the need for a fusion surgery.
Superior Court of Fresno County, Fresno, CA

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