Case details

Plaintiff claimed crash caused lower back injuries





Result type

Not present

back, bulging disc, lumbar
On Aug. 31, 2012, plaintiff Sean McLean, 25, a supermarket’s stock clerk, was driving his 1999 Cadillac Deville on eastbound Torrance Boulevard, in Torrance. As he entered the intersection with New Hampshire Avenue, the driver side — and possibly the front, driver side fender — of his vehicle was struck by the front bumper of a vehicle operated by John Truong, who was making an unprotected left turn from westbound Torrance Boulevard onto southbound New Hampshire Avenue. McLean’s girlfriend, plaintiff Rohema Dyer, and the couple’s 4-month old child, plaintiff AniyahMcLean, were in the back seat of the Cadillac Deville at the time of the crash. Sean McLean claimed to his back. McLean, Dyer and Aniyah sued John Truong (who was initially erroneously sued as John “Troung”) and Truong’s employer, Dragados USA, Inc. McLean, Dyer and Aniyah alleged that Truong was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Dragados was liable for Truong’s actions while acting in the course and scope of his employment. Dyer and Aniyah ultimately settled out of the case. Truong stipulated to liability, and Dragados stipulated that Truong was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the crash., McLean claimed he suffered herniated lumbar discs at L4-5 and L5-S1, consisting of a disc extrusion at the L4-5 level and a disc protrusion at the L5-S1 level. At the time of the crash, McLean sought no medical care, but ultimately presented to Torrance Memorial Medical Center, in Torrance, four days later with complaints of soft tissue to his lower back. Nine days later, he presented to the emergency room at Providence Little Company of MaryMedical Center Torrance with continued complaints of lower back pain and new complaints of radiating pain into his left buttocks and leg. While at Providence, an MRI was taken of his lower back, which revealed the disc extrusion at the L4-5 level and the disc protrusion at L5-S1 level. As a result, McLean was held overnight for pain management and then released to his primary care physician. Subsequent to his release, McLean underwent physical therapy, a series of six epidural injections in his lower back, and, ultimately, a microdiscectomy at the L4-5 level by an orthopedic surgeon on Dec. 20, 2012. However, McLean claimed the surgery resulted in minimal relief. As a result, he was evaluated 1.5 years later by his treating neurosurgery expert, who concluded that scar tissue at the site of the surgery was causing additional compression on the nerves in the area. The expert neurosurgeon subsequently preformed a redo of the microdiscectomy at the same level. After the second microdiscectomy, McLean claimed that he obtained relief of his left leg symptoms. However, he alleged that he continued to suffer from lower back pain. As a result, McLean continued to receive lower back injections and he was told that if his symptoms did not improve, he would eventually require a fusion of his lower back. McLean claimed that he suffers from occasional, chronic lower back pain with strenuous activities and has limitations on how far he can bend. He alleged that as a result, he could no longer work as a stock clerk and now works full-time as a grill cook. The plaintiff’s expert life care planner testified that, based on an evaluation of McLean and a discussion with the plaintiff’s treating neurosurgery expert, she formulated a life care plan that included pain management, a fusion surgery, medication, housekeeping services, and medical supplies for McLean. She further testified that McLean’s life care plan totaled $730,308. Thus, McLean sought recovery of $40,475 in past lost earnings, $290,050.62 in past medical expenses, $600,974 in future medical expenses, and $130,308 in other future expenses. Since McLean was uninsured at the time of the accident, he was foreclosed from claiming noneconomic damages for any alleged pain and suffering, etc., under Proposition 213. Thus, the case was tried on economic damages only. Defense counsel contended that McLean only suffered a lumbar strain, which only required eight to 10 weeks of physical therapy. Counsel also argued that the delayed onset of the herniated disc, which was discovered 13 days post-incident, showed that it was unrelated to the crash. The defense’s biomechanical expert testified that there was not a sufficient mechanism to cause a herniated disc in McLean. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon also opined that McLean’s lumbar extrusion was unrelated to any injury McLean allegedly sustained in the crash due to a lack of symptoms during the 13 days leading up to the discovery of the extrusion. Thus, during closing arguments, defense counsel suggested to the jury that McLean should only be awarded $11,000 in total damages.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Compton, CA

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