Case details

Plaintiff claimed crash aggravated prior injuries





Result type

Not present

back, cervical, left calf contusion, left leg, lumbar strains, neck, proximal fibular fracture
In 2013, plaintiff Ermias Dessalign, an operation supervisor in his 40s who worked at The London Hotel and was originally from Ethiopia, was driving in Los Angeles when a vehicle operated by Crystal Zuniga ran a stop sign and broadsided Dessalign’s Mercedes. Dessalign’s vehicle subsequently bounced off Zuniga’s vehicle and struck a concrete block wall before coming to a rest on the sidewalk. Zuniga fled the scene. She was later pulled over and arrested for driving with a suspended license (due to a prior driving-under-the-influence incident) and for fleeing the scene of an accident. Dessalign’s vehicle was totaled in the crash, and he claimed to his left leg, neck and back. Dessalign sued Zuniga and the owner of Zuniga’s vehicle, Thomas Lin. Dessalign alleged that Zuniga was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that Lin was vicariously liable for Zuniga’s actions. He also alleged that Lin was liable for negligently entrusting the vehicle to Zuniga. Zuniga admitted liability prior to trial., Dessalign claimed the crash aggravated prior cervical and lumbar strains and sprains, and caused a proximal fibular fracture and calf contusion to his left leg. Prior to the collision, Dessalign had a long history of bilateral, lower extremity radiculopathy. He also previously underwent both cervical and lumbar fusions in 2008 and 2010 due to his prior degenerative condition. Dessalign never fully recovered from the surgeries, and he even walked with a significant limp. As a result, he was continuously treated his over the years, but did not undergo any other corrective surgeries. After the crash, Dessalign was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with the cervical and lumbar strains, and the left calf contusion and proximal fibular fracture. His left leg was subsequently placed in a cast at the hospital and remained casted for two months to allow the fracture to heal. Dessalign claimed the subject accident aggravated his cervical and lumbar sprains and strains. He underwent extensive MRIs both before and after the accident, but they showed no changes in the cervical or lumbar condition anatomically. Dessalign had recommendations for surgery in his medical file, but he declined surgery. Instead, he treated with physical therapy. However, Dessalign claimed that his condition has not improved. Thus, Dessalign sought recovery of past and future general damages, including recovery for the cost of future medical care that included surgery. Defense counsel argued that the crash caused nothing new and that Dessalign’s quality of life was already negatively impacted by his degenerative disease. Counsel also argued that while the crash caused Dessalign some discomfort and some general damages for short period of time, Dessalign was back at baseline 90 days after the incident. The parties ultimately established a $500,000/$150,000 high/low agreement.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Pasadena, CA

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