Case details

Passenger claimed accident caused bulging lumbar discs





Result type

Not present

back, bulging disc, lumbar, neck, stenosis
On Jan. 31, 2010, plaintiff Shawn Maloney, 29, a train conductor for Union Pacific Railroad, was a passenger in a Union Pacific truck traveling down a dirt road parallel to a railroad track in Barstow. At approximately 4:45 p.m., the driver of the truck lost control and slid down an embankment, crashing and coming to a rest against a chain link fence. Maloney claimed to his lower back and neck. Maloney sued Union Pacific Railroad Co., alleging the company was liable for the negligence of its employee under the Federal Employers Liability Act. Union Pacific did not dispute or admit liability for the accident. At the close of evidence, plaintiff’s counsel moved for a directed verdict on the issue of liability, and it was granted., Maloney was taken by ambulance to an emergency room with complaints of neck and lower back pain. He underwent MRIs that revealed disc bulges and spinal stenosis at L4-5 and L5-S1. Maloney subsequently followed up with extensive pain management, consisting of epidural injections, facet blocks, rhizotomy (radio frequency ablation), and physical therapy. Maloney claimed he missed 19 months of work following the accident and now misses one to two trips per week due to debilitating pain. He claimed that while he is mostly done with treatment, he still experiences significant pain and discomfort in his lower back that will require a fusion surgery in the future. Thus, Maloney sought recovery of $8,557.69 in unpaid medical costs, $100,000 in future medical costs for the fusion surgery, $135,000 in past loss of earnings and $426,000 in future loss of earnings. He also sought recovery of $600,000 in damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that Maloney’s condition and ongoing complaints were due to both a pre-existing lower back condition and a post-accident diagnosis of fibromyalgia. In addition, the defense’s accident reconstruction and medical examiner experts opined that the forces involved in the accident were less than one would experience in a bumper car. Thus, defense counsel argued that Maloney was not seriously hurt from the accident. In response, Maloney claimed that while his at L4-5 and L5-S1 were pre-existing in a sense, they did not become symptomatic until the subject accident.
Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA

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