Case details

Plaintiff claimed lower back injury from truck collision





Result type

Not present

back, fusion, herniated disc, lumbar, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On Aug. 10, 2015, plaintiff Malak Qaadir, 49, a truck driver, was driving a liquid nitrogen truck back to the yard when his tractor-trailer was rear-ended on southbound Interstate 605, in Los Angeles, by a tractor-trailer driven by Ubaldo Figueroa. Qaadir claimed to his back and legs. Qaadir sued Figueroa and the owner of Figueroa’s tractor-trailer, Pacifica Trucks, LLC. Qaadir alleged that Figueroa was negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer and that Pacifica Trucks was vicariously liable for Figueroa’s actions. Adan Ordonez Trucking, A&D Trucking and Adan Ordonez were also named as defendants, but they were ultimately dismissed from the case. The trial only continued against Figueroa and Pacifica Trucks. Figueroa and Pacifica Trucks admitted liability for the accident., Qaadir claimed he sustained a herniated disc at the L5-S1 level with radicular pain down his legs. Qaadir claimed that the impact pushed his tractor-trailer about two car lengths, knocked his glasses off, and caused his lunchbox and clipboard to fly off the passenger seat. He also claimed the impact caused his chest to hit the steering wheel and his head to hit the windshield. Although he claimed he had back pain at the scene, Qaadir refused an ambulance and medical care. He then went to drop off his tractor-trailer at the yard nearby, since both vehicles were able to be driven from the scene. However, Qaadir claimed that he began developing worse back pain with pain into his legs later that evening. The next day, he went to work, but he was sent to a clinic, where he was evaluated, X-rayed and given medication. He then presented to the emergency room at a Kaiser hospital with complaints of back and leg pain. Thereafter, Qaadir treated with physicians at South Bay Pain Doctors, in Torrance, for almost a year. During the course of his treatment, Qaadir received several epidural injections between 2015 and 2016. He eventually decided to undergo a lumbar fusion at the L5-S1 level in July 2016. The surgery included the insertion of plates and six pedicle screws, and was performed by his treating neurosurgeon. Qaadir then continued physical therapy and had a spinal stimulator implanted in the spring of 2018. He ultimately had hardware removal surgery and a further fusion, which was performed by his treating neurosurgeon in July 2016. Qaadir claimed that he had no prior or claims, and that he has been unable to return to work as a truck driver since the accident. His wife testified, unimpeached, that Qaadir has ongoing back pain, but that Qaadir’s leg pain got better. At the time of trial, Qaadir claimed that he was getting better and would start to consider looking for work of some kind within his physical limitations. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the accident was significant and that all of Qaadir’s treatment and care was reasonable, necessary and related to the crash. Counsel also contended that Qaadir was unable to return to work as a truck driver and would need to settle for a lower paying job. Counsel further contended that Qaadir would need future medical care. In addition, plaintiff’s counsel called a police officer, a Kaiser physician, and two supervisors from the company where Qaadir worked to testify as witnesses. The police officer attempted to established the location and nature of the accident; the Kaiser physician testified as to Qaadir’s complaints of back and leg pain two days after the accident; and the two supervisors claimed that Qaadir was a model employee, a hard worker and a reliable truck driver. Although Figueroa testified that he was traveling between 45 and 50 mph at the time he rear-ended Qaadir, the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert opined that the impact was substantially lower than 40 to 50 mph, and was more in the 17 to 23 mph range, with a delta-v of 11 to 15 mph. The expert also opined that the impact was sufficient to cause a lower back injury, and the need for treatment and care. The plaintiff’s treating neurosurgeon opined that the accident caused both the alleged lumbar injury and the need for surgery, as Qaadir did not have any prior complaints or prior lower back treatment or care. The plaintiff’s vocational rehabilitation expert opined that Qaadir was unable to return to work and would not ever be able to return to work as a truck driver. The expert also opined that Qaadir would need to settle for a lower paying desk or clerical job. The plaintiff’s billing expert opined that Qaadir’s past medical bills totaling $880,000 were reasonable and customary at $632,000. The plaintiff’s life care planning expert testified as to Qaadir’s alleged future medical care and life care needs. In addition, the plaintiff’s expert economist opined that Qaadir’s future care and lost wages, assuming Qaadir found a lower paying job, would amount to approximately $1,951,000. Qaadir sought recovery for his past and future lost earnings, past and future medical costs, and past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that the accident was not sufficient enough to cause the alleged. Counsel also argued that had Qaadir simply chose not to have pain management and surgery, and, instead, became educated in body mechanics, Qaadir could have returned to work with minimal wage loss and no future medical care. However, counsel argued that, given that the unnecessary surgery was performed, Qaadir has recovered and could go back to work making as much or more than he made before by changing careers. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert opined that the accident involved a relatively low-speed collision with a delta-v of between 4 and 7 mph. Further, the defense’s biomechanics expert opined that the accident was not strong enough to cause sufficient compression to cause an injury. The defense’s billing expert opined that the reasonable and customary value of Qaadir’s past medical costs, based on Medicare and HMO schedules, was $174,000. The defense’s expert radiologist opined that the lumbar disc was degenerated and pre-existing, and not traumatically injured. The defense’s neuroradiology and orthopedic spinal surgery experts both opined that the alleged pain in Qaadir’s leg was caused by a pedicle screw improperly placed by the plaintiff’s treating neurosurgeon and that the screw should have been repositioned rather than removed. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon disagreed with the alleged need for pain management and surgery. The expert also opined that Qaadir could have returned to work in three to four months with minimal lost pay, if he had not elected to undergo pain management or surgery. The defense’s life care panning and vocational rehabilitation expert opined that Qaadir needed minimal life care and future medical care. The expert also opined that had Qaadir not undergone surgery, he could have returned to work in a few months and that, going forward, Qaadir could work as a freight broker or a water treatment plant manager. In addition, the defense’s expert economist opined that if Qaadir had returned to work and avoided the surgery in the beginning, Qaadir’s total wage loss would have been only $18,000 and Qaadir would not have needed any future medical care. However, the expert testified that by choosing to have the surgery, Qaadir’s total future economic package, including future medical costs and future lost wages, would exceed $1.1 million. During cross-examination, the defense’s accident reconstruction expert admitted that the collision was a unique frame-against-frame, bumper-against-bumper accident with a fast delta-t, or duration of accident time, which is what causes an injury. The expert also admitted that, while the vehicles both weighed the same at 33,000 pounds, the amount of force generated by the impact was about 56,000 pounds or 28 tons. The defense’s biomechanics expert admitted on cross-examination that he was not involved in any rear-end accident testing, except a Honda-versus-Honda test that occurred at 5.6 mph, which caused no damage to either car. He also admitted that he had in his file, but did not disclose on direct testimony, a crash test involving a bumper car at 2.4 mph that appeared to cause sufficient movement of the occupant that seemed potentially injurious. The defense’s billing expert admitted on cross-examination that one would need to be a member of the Medicare and HMO plans to get the pricing he testified to, and volunteered that “membership has its privileges.” The defense’s radiology expert admitted on cross-examination that the T1-weighted film would light up, if it was fat and not edema or injury, but that the film was dark. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon admitted on cross-examination that the subject accident caused Qaadir’s back pain that required treatment and care. He also admitted that if treatment, including surgery, was recommended and Qaadir followed that recommendation, he would not be critical of Qaadir for following that recommendation. The expert further admitted that Qaadir could not return to work as a truck driver, if Qaadir had back and leg pain, and was on muscle relaxants that would affect his ability to drive. In addition, plaintiff’s counsel responded that the defense’s life care planning and vocational rehabilitation expert’s opinions about prospective new positions for Qaadir — a freight broker or a water treatment plant manager — both required a career change and physical abilities that Qaadir did not have due to limitations.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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