Case details

Parties disputed cause of sideswipe in parking lot





Result type

Not present

back, neck, stenosis
On Dec. 29, 2011, plaintiff Thomas Carroll, an unemployed 58 year old, left a farmer’s market and was backing out of a space in a parking lot near the intersection of Main Street and Ontario Avenue, in Corona, when he was involved in a sideswipe accident with a vehicle operated by Chinh Vu, who was also reversing her vehicle. The sideswipe occurred on the passenger’s side of each vehicle. Carroll claimed to his neck. Carroll sued Chinh Vu (who was initially erroneously sued as “Chinh Nguyen”) and the vehicle’s owner, Vu’s husband, Viet Nguyen. Carroll alleged that Vu was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that Nguyen was vicariously liable for his wife’s actions. Nguyen was ultimately dismissed from the case prior to trial. Carroll contended that he backed out from his space about three to five inches when Vu’s vehicle came across the parking lot and turned into the space next to his, sideswiping his vehicle. Vu claimed she had finished shopping at the market and was reversing her vehicle out of a parking space on the opposite side of the parking aisle. Defense counsel contended that the parties did not see each other when they were backing out of their respective spaces and sideswiped each other in the middle of the parking aisle. Thus, counsel argued that either neither party was negligent or, in the alternative, Carroll was negligent for backing his vehicle into the aisle while it was occupied by Vu., Carroll first presented to his primary care physician with complaints of neck pain on Jan. 3, 2012. He was subsequently referred to an orthopedist and underwent a few months of physical therapy. He then obtained an attorney. The orthopedic surgeon diagnosed Carroll with multi-level cervical stenosis with central cord syndrome. Carroll ultimately underwent a four-level laminoplasty in February 2013. Carroll initially contended at his deposition that he never had any neck pain prior to the accident. However, defense counsel noted that discovery showed that 20 days before the accident, Carroll presented to an emergency room with severe pain in his neck that radiated into his arm. Thus, at trial, Carroll claimed that the subject accident aggravated his pre-existing neck problems. The plaintiff’s expert orthopedic surgeon testified that Carroll’s neck injury was aggravated by the subject accident. The expert also opined that Carroll was not a candidate for surgery, so the subject accident must have aggravated his pre-existing symptoms. Defense counsel argued that Carroll’s injury was pre-existing, and not caused or aggravated by the subject accident. Counsel contended that the subject accident was minor, as Carroll’s vehicle only had a light scratch and Vu’s vehicle only showed pre-existing damage to the right, rear quarter-panel with no new damage. Photos of Vu’s vehicle before the accident showed no difference from how it appeared following the incident. The defense’s biomechanical engineering expert testified that, based on his accident reconstruction and biomechanical review, he determined that the forces of the accident would not have been sufficient to cause the type of injury that Carroll was claiming. In response, Carroll claimed he struck the left side of his head inside of the vehicle at the time of the accident. However, the defense’s biomechanical expert testified that this was not possible due to the force in the subject accident and opined that the force would have taken Carroll’s head to the right and would not have been sufficient enough to take Carroll’s head back to the left and cause it to hit the window, as Carroll claimed.
Superior Court of Riverside County, Riverside, CA

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