Case details

Plaintiff claimed back and neck injuries attributed to collision





Result type

Not present

ablation, back, neck, soft tissue
On Sept. 5, 2010, plaintiff Teresa Brown, 41, a correctional officer, was in her Nissan Maxima traveling in the right lane of westbound Stockton Boulevard in Elk Grove. Her two daughters were also passengers in the vehicle. At the same time, Elena Alcala was driving a Toyota Corolla in the left lane of Stockton Boulevard, traveling in the same direction as Brown’s vehicle. When Alcala realized she missed her turn, she moved into the center lane and then attempted to make a right turn into a parking lot so that she could turn around and head back in the opposite direction. However, as she attempted to turn right into the parking lot, Alcala struck Brown’s driver’s side door, causing Brown’s vehicle to lose control and strike a light pole on the side of the road. Brown claimed neck and back , as well as emotional problems as a result of seeing one of her children injured in the crash. Teresa Brown sued Elena Alcala, and the owners of the Toyota, Elena Alcala’s parents, Jose Alcala and Rose Alcala. Brown alleged that Elena Alcala was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that her parents were vicariously liable for their daughter’s actions. Brown’s husband, Terrence Brown, and their children, Alexis Brown and Madison Brown, were originally named as plaintiffs in the case. However, Mr. Brown’s claim was dismissed, and the claims of Alexis and Madison were settled prior to trial. In addition, Elena Alcala’s parents were dismissed from the case. Thus, the matter continued on Teresa Brown’s claims against Elena Alcala only. Teresa Brown claimed that Elena Alcala made a sudden and unexpected turn into her driver’s side door, causing it to crash into a light pole. Elena Alcala admitted liability for the accident., Teresa Brown claimed she suffered soft tissue neck and back from the accident. She subsequently was taken by ambulance to Methodist Hospital of Sacramento, where she was treated and released the same day. A few days later, on Sept. 9, 2010, she followed up with her primary care treating physician, a general practitioner, who recommended physical therapy treatment, which began on Sept. 14, 2010, and acupuncture, which began on Oct. 12, 2010. The physician also referred Brown to a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, who did a work-up on her on Oct. 20, 2010. After Brown’s initial physical therapy and acupuncture treatment, the physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist referred her to have facet injections and epidural steroid injections to the sacroiliac joint, as well as a lumbar nerve ablation. In January 2011, Brown started with the cervical facet injections, and continued with lumbar facet injections in August 2011. Both allegedly provided her with relief. Between February 2012 and July 2012, Brown underwent the epidural injections and the lumbar nerve ablation, but claimed it provided her with no relief. Brown’s treating physicians testified that Brown sustained soft tissue neck and back . The plaintiffs’ pain management and rehabilitation expert also testified that Brown had facet mediated pain in her neck, and either had facet mediated and discogenic pain in her back or bother areas were the sources of her pain. Initially, Brown took off from work, per doctor’s orders, from Sept. 5, 2012, to Nov. 20, 2012. Over the next two years, she took off from work in a tapering fashion, with the most days being one week off, due to appointments and pain. Brown claimed that her neck complaints have since resolved and that she has infrequent stiffness. She also claimed that her lower back has improved, but that she still has some symptoms. However, Brown alleged that she still has problems with sitting or standing for long periods of time, as well as lifting heavy objects. She also alleged that she has pain when she attempts activities, such as exercise. In addition, Brown claimed she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of this accident. She identified the most traumatizing event as being after the accident when the fire department placed a sheet over her head “as if she was dead” while they broke the safety glass of her driver’s side window. She also claimed serious emotional distress from witnessing an injury to her oldest daughter. Plaintiffs’ counsel called eight character witnesses to testify about how the accident had impacted Brown’s life and ability to be a mother, wife, friend and correctional officer. Brown acknowledged that she did not start any counseling for her emotional until Nov. 20, 2012. However, she claimed that she did not start counseling sooner because she identified herself as a “strong,” professional woman who would never need counseling. Brown claimed that she will need additional doctor visits and counseling as a result of her . She also claimed that she will need five to 10 years of prescription medications. Thus, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award Brown damages in excess of $500,000, including damages for Brown’s future pain and suffering, future medical costs, and past and future pain and suffering for witnessing to her oldest daughter. Defense counsel contended that after Brown’s initial physical therapy and acupuncture, the plaintiff’s treating physical medicine and rehabilitation expert referred Brown for numerous invasive procedures, and that Brown submitted for a total of five different injections at multiple levels. However, defense counsel argued that Brown’s treating doctors were never able to identify the exact source of her pain. The defense’s expert neurologist opined that Brown sustained nothing more than soft tissues that should have resolved within six to eight weeks. He testified that Brown experienced neck and lower back pain prior to the subject accident, which she never informed her treating physicians about. Further, the expert opined that this type of accident would not have caused an injury to Brown’s facets, which explained her lack of response to the treatment she had from February 2012 and July 2012. As such, the expert proffered that Brown was over treated and that the treatment should have been cut off after eight weeks. Defense counsel noted that Brown’s treating physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist opined that the lack of results following the ablation procedure could mean the facets were not the source of her pain after all. Thus, defense counsel argued that if the jury was to award a verdict for Brown’s alleged damages, it would be appropriate to give an award in accordance with 8 weeks of treatment. Defense counsel further asserted that Brown’s breast implants contributed to her alleged neck and back pain. The defense’s neurology expert testified that many of his own patients had back and neck pain due to breast implants and that implants can create a risk of such pain. Thus, he opined that it was possible that Brown’s complaints were degenerative and related to her breast implants. However, the neurology expert testified that he could not state with a reasonable degree of medical probability that Brown’s implants were contributing to her neck and back pain. In response, plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Brown received her breast implants in 2000, and that she had no medical complaints or medical problems since then. Brown’s treating medical providers also testified that Brown’s implants had nothing to do with her neck and back symptoms, and that Brown’s pain was caused by the September 2010 collision.
Superior Court of Sacramento County, Sacramento, CA

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