Case details

Passenger’s fracture could not have been from crash: defense





Result type

Not present

fracture, mid-back, neck, shoulder, thoracic fracture
At around 2 p.m. on Nov. 16, 2012, plaintiff Ryan Zirkle, 34, a caretaker for his father, was a passenger in a pickup truck operated by his father, Keith Zirkle. As they were traveling on San Fernando Road, in Burbank, their truck was rear-ended by a cargo van that was previously struck by a vehicle operated by David Hambardzumyan, who was making a right turn out of a driveway. Ryan Zirkle claimed to his mid-back and neck, while Keith Zirkle claimed to his back and a shoulder. The Zirkles sued David Hambardzumyan and the owner of David Hambardzumyan’s vehicle, Yuri Hambardzumyan. The Zirkles alleged that David Hambardzumyan was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Yuri Hambardzumyan was vicariously liable for David Hambardzumyan’s actions. Plaintiff Keith Zirkle later settled out of the case. The driver of the cargo van that struck the Zirkle truck was not a party in the case. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that David Hambardzumyan was making a right turn out of a driveway when his vehicle struck the rear end of the cargo van and that the force of that impact caused the van to strike the rear end of the Zirkles’ truck. Thus, counsel argued that the collision involved a high-speed impact. Counsel further argued that there was no visible damage to the Zirkle truck because it was struck on the trailer hitch, which caused significant forces on Ryan Zirkle and did not absorb the impact. David Hambardzumyan claimed that there were two impacts to the Zirkle vehicle; first from the cargo van alone and then after his vehicle struck the cargo van and pushed into the Zirkle Truck. However, David Hambardzumyan claimed that both impacts occurred at a low speed. Defense counsel disputed that the trailer hitch on the Zirkle vehicle had any effect on the mechanism of injury. In response, Ryan Zirkle denied that there were two impacts. However, David Hambardzumyan ultimately admitted negligence, as he did strike the cargo van., Keith Zirkle initially claimed to his back and shoulder, but ultimately agreed to settle out of the case shortly after defense counsel obtained his workers’ compensation records, which allegedly showed that Keith Zirkle had claimed the same . Ryan Zirkle claimed that he sustained an acute T12 compression fracture, as well as a neck injury. He was not treated at the scene or taken by ambulance to a hospital, but reported to an emergency room as a walk-in later that evening. He subsequently underwent CT scans, which revealed the T12 compression fracture. Ryan Zirkle wore a hard back brace for six months and followed-up with the hospital neurosurgeon for six months. Ryan Zirkle claimed the thoracic fracture improperly healed, causing continued pain that required chiropractic treatment from April 2015 through October 2015. However, he claimed that he will require a lifetime chiropractic care with a life expectancy of 45 or more years. He further claimed that because of his continued pain to both his neck and back, he could no longer care for his father the same way he used to. Ryan Zirkle sought recovery of $213,000 in past and future medical costs, and recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. (He did not seek lost wages, as he was not paid to take care of his father.) Defense counsel contended that Ryan Zirkle’s compression fracture was not acute, but was an old injury, likely from a snowboarding accident several years earlier, during which Ryan Zirkle admitted he injured his back. According to defense counsel, Ryan Zirkle and the plaintiff’s experts were impeached on medical records and statements made prior to trial about the number of impacts to the Zirkle truck. The defense’s experts also argued that the collision lacked sufficient forces to cause a compression fracture and that there was no evidence to support the plaintiff’s theory that trailer hitches cause vehicle occupants further . In addition, the defense’s experts opined that the CT scan taken in the E.R. showed a healed fracture that could not have possibly occurred on the day of the crash, when the scan was taken.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Torrance, CA

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