Case details

No evidence of lumbar facet syndrome, defense argued





Result type

Not present

back, facet syndrome, neck
On Oct. 20, 2014, plaintiff Ashley Clark, 26, a paralegal, was driving on Phillips Lane, near the intersection with Howard Street in San Luis Obispo, when her vehicle was struck by a vehicle operated by Meghan Hughes, who was exiting an apartment complex parking lot near the intersection. The front of Hughes’ vehicle struck the front right, passenger side of Clark’s vehicle. Clark claimed to her back. Clark sued Hughes, alleging that Hughes was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Hughes did not dispute liability., Clark claimed she sustained soft tissue to the lumbar spine at the L3-4 and L4-5 levels, where there was fluid in the facet joints, suggesting inflammation. She claimed she suffered from persistent pain, so she went to a walk-in clinic several days after the accident and was eventually diagnosed with lumbar myofascial syndrome and lumbar facet syndrome. For the first two years following the accident, Clark’s treatment consisted of physical therapy. Eventually, the plaintiff’s neurosurgery expert diagnosed Clark with myofascial chronic pain based on the MRI of her lumbar spine, which showed fluid in the facet joints, bilaterally, at L3-4 and L4-5. The neurosurgery expert recommended pain management, and Clark was evaluated by a neurology and pain management expert. However, due to two successive pregnancies, Clark was unable to obtain any significant pain management care until the eve of trial, when she obtained a radiofrequency ablation procedure, which was performed by her neurology and pain management expert. Clark used flex-time, vacation and/or sick time to attend medical appointments, and she missed very little time from work during her treatment. She claimed she suffered from chronic back pain and limitations, preventing her from being able to lift her young child or engage in physical activities, such as hiking. However, Clark claimed she obtained significant relief from the radiofrequency procedure. She alleged that she will require additional radiofrequency ablation procedures for at least the next eight years, but she could require them for the rest of her life. Clark sought recovery of $24,753 in past medical costs, $350,000 in general damages for her past pain and suffering, and $1.3 million in general damages for her future pain and suffering with $25,000 being paid a year for 52 years. She presented two claims for future medical costs, based on two different treatment scenarios. Under one scenario, she sought recovery of $552,459 in future medical costs for eight years of radiofrequency ablations followed by two spinal surgeries. Under the other scenario, she sought recovery of $775,431 in future medical costs for radiofrequency ablations for life. Based on the two future treatment scenarios, Clark sought recovery of either $2,197,193 in total damages or $2,450,165 in total damages. Defense counsel noted that most of Clark’s medical treatment was provided by medical providers that Clark’s attorney had sent numerous other patients to before. Defense counsel also pointed out that the plaintiff’s medical providers had been retained as experts by plaintiff’s counsel on multiple occasions prior to Clark’s trial. For example, defense counsel noted that the plaintiff’s neurology expert had been retained as an expert by plaintiff’s counsel approximately 25 times. Defense counsel contended that Clark’s MRI did not show any injury and that the precise cause of Clark’s ongoing subjective pain symptomology was not completely clear. Counsel also contended that the plaintiff’s neurology expert’s diagnosis was based primarily on the results of a facet block and that both the plaintiff’s and defense’s experts agreed that Clark’s pregnancies and weight gain likely contributed to her back pain. In response, plaintiff’s counsel noted that he used the neurology expert 25 times, but that it was over a period of about 20 years, and that the physician was probably one of the most qualified physicians he has known. Plaintiff’s counsel also noted that the defense’s neurology expert did not deny that Clark had myofascial pain syndrome as a result of the collision.
Superior Court of San Luis Obispo County, San Luis Obispo, CA

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