Case details

Passenger not injured in collision, defense argued





Result type

Not present

back, disc protrusion, lumbar, neck, scoliosis
On July 13, 2013, plaintiff Joseph Thomas, 17, a salesman, was a passenger in a Chevy truck operated by his father as they traveled in the number three lane of Santa Rosa Road, in Camarillo. When they were near the intersection with Adolfo Road, their truck struck the right, rear corner of a Ford F-150 truck that was operated by Kathleen Van Ballegooijen, who had entered their lane. Joseph subsequently claimed to his back. Joseph sued Van Ballegooijen, alleging that Van Ballegooijen was negligent in the operation of her truck. Joseph’s father claimed that Van Ballegooijen cut off his vehicle by changing lanes when it was unsafe to do so and that as a result, he could not stop in time. Defense counsel contended that Van Ballegooijen completed her lane change into the number three lane and slowed down to turn right into a driveway to buy milk at a market. Counsel also contended that Joseph’s father was not paying attention to traffic in front of him and was travelling too fast for the traffic conditions. Counsel argued that as a result, Joseph’s father caused the collision by failing to stop his truck in time and striking the right rear of the Ford truck., Joseph claimed that his pre-existing lower back condition was exacerbated by the collision. Following the crash, Joseph allegedly self-treated his condition, but he eventually presented to an emergency room with complaints of lower back pain on Sept. 9, 2013. Joseph previously had a 2 millimeter lumbar disc protrusion at the L4-5 level, scoliosis, and Schmorl nodes (intervertebral disc herniations). However, he claimed the collision exacerbated his pre-existing back condition. Joseph subsequently underwent chiropractic and physical therapy treatments, received six epidural steroid injections to his lumbar spine, and underwent an L4-5 disc discectomy two years after the accident. Joseph claimed that despite undergoing surgery, he continues to suffer from back pain and was considered to have a disability. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgery expert opined that Joseph would need a lumbar fusion surgery in the next five to 10 years. Thus, Joseph sought recovery of $1.7 million in total damages, including $75,443.93 for past medical costs, $24,286.56 for past wage loss, $58,000 for future medical expenses, and unspecified amounts for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that Joseph was not injured in the accident and that Joseph’s back pain was from his sports-related endeavors from a very young age. Counsel noted that Joseph had been a competitive boxer, kickboxer, wrestler, and basketball player. Defense counsel also argued that Joseph’s back pain was from his congenital condition of scoliosis and from his Schmorl nodes, which occurred from cumulative trauma to Joseph’s spine from his intense sports. The defense’s neurosurgery expert agreed that Joseph had a bad back and may need a lumbar fusion in the future. However, the expert opined that the bad back and potential future surgery were related to Joseph’s sporting activities, and not due to the accident.
Superior Court of Ventura County, Ventura, CA

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