Case details

Plaintiff claimed automobile collision caused back injuries





Result type

Not present

back, bulging disc, fusion, lumbar, lumbar neck, neurological, radiculopathy
On July 27, 2016, plaintiff Belinda Stewart, 54, a nurse, was driving on Hawthorne Boulevard, near Carson Street, in Torrance. While she was decelerating in traffic, her vehicle’s rear end was struck by a trailing vehicle that was being driven by Michelle Wake. Stewart claimed that she suffered of her back and neck. Stewart sued Wake and the co-owner of Wake’s vehicle, Jerry Wake. Stewart alleged that Michelle Wake was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that Jerry Wake was vicariously liable for Michelle Wake’s actions. Jerry Wake was dismissed, and Michelle Wake’s counsel conceded liability. The trial addressed damages., After some seven days had passed, Stewart visited a chiropractor with complaints of pain in her neck, mid-back, lower back and left knee. After some two months had passed, she consulted an orthopedic surgeon. Stewart ultimately claimed that she suffered a bulge of her L4-5 intervertebral disc, with mild stenosis and resultant radiculopathy. The were diagnosed more than eight months after the accident. She underwent chiropractic treatment, but she claimed that she suffered ongoing pain related to the accident. In June 2018, Stewart underwent a discectomy, which involved excision of a portion of her L4-5 disc. She claimed that the procedure didn’t relieve her pain. In September 2018, she underwent fusion of her spine’s L4-5 level. In September 2019, she underwent revision of her fusion. The procedure included implantation of hardware. Stewart claimed that, despite her treatment, she can no longer walk two miles, as she did before, without feeling pain and that she is much slower in her daily activities. She also claimed that she will need further lumbar fusion in 10 to 15 years, due to adjacent segment disease. Stewart sought recovery of past and future medical costs and damages for past and future pain and suffering. According to defense counsel, Stewart claimed that the cost of her future care and treatment would total $1.2 million. Defense counsel noted that, when Stewart presented to an orthopedic surgeon for neck pain two months after the accident, Stewart did not mention lumbar pain to the doctor. Counsel also noted that when Stewart saw a second doctor six months after the accident, Stewart again did not mention lumbar pain. Counsel further noted that after Stewart’s third surgery, Stewart went back to work with reduced pain and no radicular pain. In addition, defense counsel contended that Stewart was working overtime, working 12-hour shifts, consistently after the accident. Defense counsel argued that Stewart’s lumbar pain was not from the accident because she did not have lumbar radiculopathy diagnosed until 8.5 months later. Instead, counsel contended that Stewart suffered sprains from the accident and that any reported 8.5 months later were all related to Stewart’s degenerative disc decease, as Stewart was in her late 50s and was working on her feet lifting heavy patients as a nurse for 12-hour days. In addition, counsel suggested that Stewart’s weight contributed to her back pain. Defense counsel also argued that Stewart never needed any of the surgeries and that only chiropractic care was related to the crash. Counsel further argued that Stewart should have tried physical therapy, which she never did.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, CA

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