Case details

Passenger claimed ongoing pain from parking lot crash





Result type

Not present

lower back, mid-, neck, soft-tissue injuries
On July 20, 2013, plaintiff Fernando Rodriguez, 24, a part-time security guard for Six Flags Magic Mountain, in Valencia, and a part-time college student, was car-pooling to work with fellow employee Kirsten Eriksson. Rodriguez was the front seat passenger in Eriksson’s vehicle. As they were on a main road in the employee parking lot, a vehicle operated by Luz Pinzon, a Columbian national, came out from a parking aisle and struck the rear passenger door of Eriksson’s vehicle, causing it to spin. Rodriguez claimed to his neck, and mid- and lower back. Rodriguez sued Pinzon and Eriksson, alleging that the drivers were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles. Pinzon filed a cross-complaint against Eriksson, alleging that Eriksson was liable for the crash. Eriksson made a claim against Pinzon’s insurer, alleging , and eventually filed a separate suit against Pinzon. However, Eriksson eventually settled her separate claim during litigation. In regard to the Pinzon matter, Eriksson was ultimately dismissed as a direct defendant. Eriksson’s counsel then moved for nonsuit as to the cross-complaint, and the court granted the motion. Rodriguez claimed that Pinzon should not have been in the employee parking lot and that Pinzon negligently drove past a stop sign that was painted on the ground, causing Pinzon’s vehicle to strike the rear passenger door of Eriksson’s vehicle. Pinzon was not present at trial, as she was a foreign national, but her counsel contested liability. Defense counsel argued that Eriksson was speeding and inattentive, thereby making Eriksson comparatively liable for the crash and Rodriguez’s . At the close of evidence, counsel for both Rodriguez and Eriksson moved for directed verdicts against Pinzon on the issue of liability, and both motions were granted., Rodriguez claimed that he was violently shaken back and forth in the crash, causing the right side of his head to strike the window. He subsequently complained of immediate pain in his lower back and neck. As a result, Rodriguez was assisted to the first aid station at Magic Mountain, where he was examined by the emergency medical technicians and told to seek follow-up care. He was also told to get a doctor’s note before he could return to work. Rodriguez then called his girlfriend, who picked him up and transported him to a hospital. At the emergency room, Rodriguez complained of lower back pain, rating it a seven out of 10. However, after staying at the E.R. for a total of 11 hours, he was informed that there were no real objective findings. Rodriguez claimed that he had sustained strains to his neck and mid-back. As a result, he treated with chiropractic, orthopedic, and pain management over the next four months, during which he consistently complained of neck and lower back pain. Rodriguez ultimately underwent an MRI, which showed 1- to 2- millimeter lumbar disc bulges at the L2-3, L3-4 and L4-5 levels, and an annular tear with a 1- to 2-mm lumbosacral disc bulge at the L5-S1 level. He subsequently received one trigger point injection Rodriguez claimed that he continues to suffer back pain with prolonged sitting and standing. He also claimed that his back pain would flare up with activities, so he has limited strenuous activities. Initially, there was no future care recommended by any of this treating doctors. However, when he was evaluated by the plaintiff’s orthopedic expert prior to trial, the expert recommended that Rodriguez undergo additional trigger point injections and a lumbar discogram to determine if the annular tear was the source of the ongoing back pain. Thus, Rodriguez sought recovery of about $14,000 in past medical costs and an unspecified amount of future medical costs. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Pinzon’s counsel disputed the seriousness of Rodriguez’s , noting that Rodriguez’s treating physicians did not recommend future treatment and that although Rodriguez’s orthopedic expert recommended additional treatment, Rodriguez declined to undergo any of the recommendations. Pinzon’s medical expert testified that he believed that Rodriguez had suffered soft-tissue as a result of the crash. Plaintiff’s counsel subsequently moved for a directed verdict on causation at the close of evidence. As there was no testimony or evidence that Rodriguez did not suffer an injury as a result of this crash, the court granted the motion on causation. Thus, the jury was left to only decide the amount of damages to award Rodriguez.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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