Case details

Parties disputed severity of alleged injuries after collision





Result type

Not present

back, emotional distress, herniated disc, mental, psychological
On March 7, 2011, Paul Benarbachian was driving his 2008 Toyota Prius on southbound Amigo Avenue in Los Angeles with his wife, Misti Benarbachian, and minor daughter, Jackie Benarbachian, as his passengers. At the same time, Raymond Safarian, a chiropractor, was driving his 2005 Hummer on westbound Rinaldi Street with his daughter, Lana Safarian, as a passenger. As the vehicles entered the intersection of Amigo Avenue and Rinaldi Street, the Safarian vehicle broadsided the Benarbachian vehicle. The Benarbachians and Safarians all claimed as a result of the accident. Mr. Benarbachian, Ms. Benarbachian and their daughter, Jackie, sued Mr. Safarian and his daughter, Lana. The Benarbachians alleged that Mr. Safarian was negligent in the operation of the Hummer. Lana was ultimately dismissed from the Benarbachians’ action. Mr. Safarian and Lana brought a separate suit against Mr. Benarbachian, alleging that Mr. Benarbachian was negligent in the operation of his Toyota Prius. The matters were consolidated for trial, but the Benarbachians ultimately settled with Mr. Safarian’s insurer in February 2012. Thus, the matter proceeded to trial with the claims of Mr. Safarian and Lana against Mr. Benarbachian only. Mr. Safarian claimed that Mr. Benarbachian ran a red light at the intersection, causing the accident. Mr. Benarbachian initially claimed that Mr. Safarian ran a red light at the intersection, causing the accident. However, on the day of trial, Mr. Benarbachian admitted fault. According to counsel for the Safarians, Mr. Benarbachian’s counsel filed several motions to exclude references to alleged prior felonies, but when he lost all but one motion, Mr. Benarbachian elected to not take the stand and conceded liability., After the accident, Mr. Safarian and Lana each claimed neck and back and subsequently presented to a chiropractor that co-owns a building with Mr. Safarian. Lana initially alleged soft-tissue neck and back , for which she received three weeks of chiropractic treatment with the treating chiropractor, amounting to $1,080 in chiropractic bills. She then underwent an MRI of her cervical spine on Sept. 28, 2012, when she continued to complain of neck pain. At the time of trial, Lana’s injury claims were still at issue, but she withdrew her physical claims during trial and proceeded only on her emotional distress claim. Thus, Lana sought recovery of $10,000 in damages for her past pain and suffering. Mr. Safarian claimed his neck and back included lumbar disc herniations at the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels. He subsequently underwent a diagnostic study of the cervical spine on March 7, 2011, and then underwent four months of treatment with the treating chiropractor from March 7, 2011, to July 14, 2011. One week after the accident, Mr. Safarian began treatment with his pain management expert, whom Mr. Safarian saw a total of six times between March 15, 2011, and June 5, 2013, before undergoing two series of lumbar injections on June 14, 2013, and June 21, 2013. In between that time, Mr. Safarian underwent a diagnostic study of the lumbar spine on Jan. 2, 2012, and three diagnostic studies of the lumbar spine on May 22, 2013, and June 3, 2013. Mr. Safarian’s pain management expert testified as to the pain management consultations, and opined that the epidural injections were necessary and attributable to the accident. He also opined that Mr. Safarian would require future medical care in the form of additional lumbar epidural injections at a cost of $36,000. Mr. Safarian’s accident reconstruction/biomechanical expert’s opinion was read at trail. The expert opined that the force of impact to Mr. Safarian’s neck and back would have been equal to a 500-pound force to the L4-5 area. Thus, Mr. Safarian sought recovery of $84,344.44 in total economic damages, including $35,344.44 in past medical costs, $36,000 in future medical costs and $13,000 in property damage to his vehicle, which he claimed he had to pay out of pocket to repair. He also sought recovery of $90,000 in non-economic damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Mr. Benarbachian’s orthopedics expert, who specialized in biomechanics, testified that, at worst, Mr. Safarian and Lana sustained soft-tissue that would have resolved in eight to 12 weeks. However, the expert did not concede that there was injury to either Mr. Safarian or Lana. Counsel for Mr. Benarbachian noted that during Mr. Safarian’s deposition in July 2012, before Lana underwent the MRI on Sept. 28, 2012, Mr. Safarian testified that Lana never received any medical treatment at all, but that he was concerned of a cervical disc bulge. Accordingly, over a year later, Mr. Safarian claimed that Lana needed to undergo a cervical MRI. As a result, Lana underwent the MRI by her father, who was a chiropractor, and Lana’s treating chiropractor, and counsel for Mr. Benarbachian subpoenaed those records. Mr. Benarbachian’s counsel contended that Mr. Safarian’s pain management expert had been a previous medical provider for Mr. Safarian and had admitted to having prescribed Mr. Safarian hydrocodone pre-accident for lower back pain and lumbar radiculopathy. However, the expert retracted his deposition testimony and testified at trial that the pre-accident prescriptions were for shoulder conditions. Counsel for Mr. Benarbachian contended that Mr. Safarian never disclosed a pre-existing back injury or lumbar radiculopathy before accident even though Mr. Safarian and Mr. Safarian’s pain management expert testified on the same day. Mr. Benarbachian’s counsel further contended that even though Mr. Safarian’s accident reconstruction expert opined to the amount of force that allegedly would have been applied to Mr. Safarian’s back, the expert did not specifically say that Mr. Safarian or Lana sustained an injury of any kind. However, counsel for Mr. Safarian and Lana responded that the expert in question was for accident reconstruction purposes only, since Mr. Benarbachian initially disputed it, and that since the expert was not a medical physician, that expert could not opine to .
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Chatsworth, CA

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