Case details

Plaintiff claimed accident caused lower back injuries





Result type

Not present

back, fusion, herniated disc, lumbar, neck, spondylolisthesis
On July 11, 2016, plaintiff Robert Mandujano, 47, a construction foreman, was a passenger in a sport utility vehicle traveling in stop-and-go traffic on a freeway when it was rear-ended by a pickup truck operated by Stephen Johnston. Mandujano claimed to his lower back. Mandujano sued Stephen Johnston and the believed owner of the pickup, Guy Johnston. Mandujano alleged that Stephen Johnston was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Guy Johnston was vicariously liable for Stephen Johnston’s actions. The Johnstons admitted liability for the accident., Mandujano went to urgent care at a Kaiser facility with complaints of lower back pain the day after the accident. Two days later, he began treatment with a chiropractor, who provided treatment on a lien. After approximately five months of chiropractic care with allegedly only minimal relief of the lower back and right leg radiculopathy, Mandujano underwent an MRI, which showed isthmic spondylolisthesis — a lumbar spinal condition in which a fracture of the isthmus causes one vertebral body to slip forward on top of the vertebral body below it — at the L5-S1 level and a possible herniated lumbar disc at the L4-5 level. He received a recommendation for a two-level lumbar fusion, but he did not have the surgery right away and eventually underwent the lumbar fusion to the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels approximately 1.5 years after the accident. Following the surgery, Mandujano spent five days in the intensive care unit because of a breathing complication, which he recovered from without issue. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that although the Delta-V of the impact was approximately 15 mph to 19 mph, the accident caused Mandujano’s . Counsel also contended that Mandujano was now at increased risk for adjacent segment disease and will more likely than not require an adjacent level fusion surgery at the level above the current fusion. Mandujano has been in construction for 22 years, working as a foreman, digging holes for underground cable maintenance. He claimed that although he is still able to work, he did suffer a loss of earning capacity as a result of the hardware in his spine in conjunction with his ongoing symptoms. Mandujano claimed that his surgery and all related treatment was done on a lien and that his past medical bills totaled approximately $408,000. He sought recovery of past and future medical costs, past and future lost earnings, and damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel challenged that the minor impact was a substantial factor in causing Mandujano’s harm. Counsel argued that the spondylolisthesis and L4-L5 disc herniation were pre-existing and not traumatically induced and that the forces in the crash were minor and not significant enough to cause the being claimed. Counsel also contended that Mandujano’s children, who were in the vehicle at the time of the accident, suffered only minor soft tissue , and argued that if Mandujano suffered from any back pain, it was likely caused by Mandujano’s 22 years of doing construction work. Defense counsel further argued that Mandujano’s medical bills were inflated and not reasonable. Counsel contended that all of Mandujano’s medical care was attorney referred and that all of the treating doctors, including the surgeon, were biased because they had a direct stake in the outcome of the case as a result of the medical liens. The defense’s medical billing expert opined that the reasonable value of the services provided to Mandujano amounted to less than half of the actual bills. The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert opined that there was only a 5 percent to 10 percent chance of Mandujano requiring any further surgeries. Defense counsel argued that Mandujano did not have any loss of earning capacity, and pointed to the fact that Mandujano continued to work after the crash, even the day following the crash, up until the time of the surgery. Counsel also contended that while Mandujano was out of work for approximately four months following the surgery, Mandujano had been back to work, doing the same construction job, without medical limitations by the time of trial. As a result, defense counsel argued that Mandujano did not have any medical disability that would prevent him from continuing in his current employment position and that no doctor said Mandujano was working against medical advice. Defense counsel argued that Mandujano had not been truthful about whether there was a third car involved in the crash and that the jury could therefore disregard Mandujano’s testimony about symptoms, if they didn’t believe him. Counsel also attempted to portray Mandujano and his family as being litigious, presenting evidence about his wife having a separate personal injury lawsuit pending for her own automobile crash and separate lawsuits filed for the children, who were allegedly not seriously hurt in the subject crash. In addition, defense counsel argued that Mandujano’s chiropractor exaggerated Mandujano’s complaints of pain through medical documentation that showed that Mandujano had pain at levels 2 to 3, but after Mandujano’s first visit, came out with pain at levels as high as 10 out of 10, to increase the value of the lawsuit. As their final witness, defense counsel called the plaintiff’s treating chiropractor, who admitted that he had a financial stake in the litigation. Defense counsel also played an old YouTube video from the chiropractor’s website, in which the chiropractor suggested that he could help personal injury victims and lawyers maximize their personal injury recovery.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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