Case details

Plaintiff claimed crash caused neck, shoulder and arm injuries




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

arm, back, left shoulder, lower back, neck, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On Sept. 23, 2009, at around 1:30 a.m., plaintiff Michael Polnar, 57, a long haul truck driver, was operating his employer’s 18-wheel Freightliner on westbound Highway 80, near Truckee, when he broadsided an overturned 18-wheel rig, which was lying on its side across all traffic lanes. The overturned tractor-trailer was previously operated by William Baldwin, who had also been traveling on westbound Highway 80. When Baldwin rounded a curve in the road, he lost control, drove onto the right shoulder, overcorrected and flipped his tractor-trailer across both westbound lanes, damaging state property in the process. Thus, the overturned big rig blocked the highway and created a trap for unwary motorists. Polnar claimed to his neck, left shoulder, arm and lower back as a result of broadsiding Baldwin’s overturned vehicle. Polnar sued Baldwin and Progressive Logistics Inc., Baldwin’s employer and the owner of the tractor-trailer. Polnar alleged that Baldwin was negligent in the operation of his tractor-trailer and that Progressive Logistics was vicariously liable for Baldwin’s actions during the course and scope of his work for the company. Baldwin initially disputed negligence, but eventually admitted liability., Polnar’s initial complaints primarily involved his neck, and left non-dominant shoulder and arm. He was seen in a workers’ compensation clinic several days later, complaining of pain in those parts of his body. Over the next several weeks, he returned to limited part-time work and then returned to full-time employment as a trucker for an additional year. Polnar claimed that during that period, his symptoms gradually became worse until his neck pain radiated into his left arm and lower back pain radiated into his left leg. He also claimed he had persistent left shoulder pain that eventually required a shoulder arthroscopy. Polnar also underwent conservative treatment for his spinal , including epidural injections to his neck and lower back, physical therapy, medications and home exercise. The plaintiff’s treating neurosurgeon, Dr. Brian Andrews, recommended an anterior discectomy and fusion at C4-5 and C5-6, but Polnar had not undergone the surgery as of the time of trial. In the meantime, Polnar continues to treat conservatively through the workers’ compensation system. (The workers’ compensation case is still open.) Polnar claimed he paid $51,165 in past medical costs through the workers’ compensation system, with temporary and permanent disability advances of $79,307, making the total workers’ compensation lien amount to $130,472. However, the lien is disputed based on alleged employer negligence and spoliation of evidence. Polnar’s wife, Inna Polnar, sought recovery of damages for her loss of consortium. The defense’s orthopedic surgeon wrote a 70-page report, opining that all of Polnar’s alleged pre-existed the subject collision. The expert opined that, at most, Polnar suffered transient soft-tissue of the neck, lower back and shoulder. He pointed out that all of Polnar’s alleged injured areas were symptomatic for many years before the crash. The expert noted that one month before the collision, Polnar had been offered an arthroscopy and labral repair for his left shoulder. The expert also noted that Polnar did not complain about any lower back pain for many months after the crash and that Polnar had complained about back pain before the subject collision. Thus, the defense’s orthopedic expert opined that Polnar does not require any additional medical care that would be casually related to the subject accident and that all of Polnar’s treatment was primarily needed to address pre-existing advanced degenerative disc disease. He further opined that, based on pre-collision complaints, Polnar eventually would have undergone the left shoulder surgery absent his involvement in the subject accident. The defense’s medical expert testified that Polnar was able to continue working in a light-duty capacity for one year after the accident and opined that although Polnar stopped working because of increasing pain, the same process would have happened absent Polnar’s involvement in the subject accident. He further opined that it would be reasonable for Polnar to continue driving trucks with some restrictions in lifting, forceful pushing, pulling, and carrying to minimize his symptoms. Polnar was seen for an agreed-upon medical examination by Dr. Peter Mandell for the workers’ compensation case. Mandell opined that Polnar’s neck injury was 50 percent pre-existing and 50 percent subject collision. He also opined that Polnar’s lower back injury was 10 percent pre-existing and 90 percent from the collision. In addition, he opined that Polnar’s left shoulder injury was 60 percent pre-existing and 40 percent from the collision.
Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Santa Clara, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case