Case details

Plaintiff claimed rear-end crash aggravated prior neck injury





Result type

Not present

bulging cervical disc, neck
On July 8, 2015, plaintiff Thomas Battaglia, 29, a ranger diver for the city of San Diego, was stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Black Mountain Road and Carroll Canyon Road, in San Diego, when his vehicle was rear-ended by a yellow ASAP taxicab operated by Fariborz Sabetian. Battaglia claimed to his neck, while his wife, who was a front seat passenger in the vehicle, sustained no . Battaglia sued Sabetian and Sabetian’s employer, Atlas Venture LLC, which was doing business as ASAP Cab. Battaglia alleged that Sabetian was negligent in the operation of the cab and that Atlas Venture was liable for Sabetian’s actions while in the course and scope of his employment. Sabetian and Atlas Venture conceded liability., Battaglia claimed he sustained a bulging cervical disc at the C5-6 level due to an aggravation of a pre-existing injury. Battaglia complained of neck pain immediately after the collision. He subsequently drove to a Sharp Rees-Stealy urgent care center, in San Diego, and underwent an MRI, which showed a disc bulge at C5-6. About seven to 10 years before the subject crash, Battaglia was involved in a surfing incident, during which he fell off his surfboard and allegedly hurt his neck. It was diagnosed as whiplash injury, but Battaglia had no recurrence of pain until the subject motor vehicle collision. Thus, he claimed the subject crash aggravated his prior neck injury. For treatment of the bulging cervical disc, Battaglia underwent a few months of physical therapy, which he claimed were not helpful. As a result, he sought treatment from a pain management expert, and received two sets of epidural injections and a final set of facet injections. Battaglia claimed that the facet injections helped the most and that he has gotten better, but that he is still not 100 percent. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that photographs of the incident introduced to the jury showed the imprint of the cab’s license plate cover in the rear bumper of Battaglia’s vehicle. The plaintiff’s biomechanical expert testified that he looked under Battaglia’s vehicle and saw that the two anchor bolts that hold the bumper were slightly shoved forward by two to three millimeters, which he opined showed the force of impact. The expert also opined that, since Battaglia was looking right at the time of the collision, the force would have been enough to load Battaglia’s neck joints and aggravate a pre-existing disc bulge. The plaintiff’s treating pain management physician went through the timeline of Battaglia receiving injections and the fluoroscopic images, which showed the area to be injected, the needles in the area, and the area after the injections to show that Battaglia had needles in his neck to treat his pain. The plaintiff’s treating physical therapist also testified as to Battaglia’s treatment. Battaglia returned to work was a ranger diver for the city after the accident. He then completed a Masters’ degree and went on to change jobs with the city and now works in the financial auditing department. Though the job is more sedentary, Battaglia has more earnings, so he did not seek recovery of any lost wages. He also waived $18,000 in past medical costs. Thus, Battaglia sought recovery of $450,000 in damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel disputed the extent of Battaglia’s alleged injury. Counsel argued that Battaglia was making good progress with physical therapy in the months following the collision, but that Battaglia reported a slip-and-fall accident at work five months after the subject crash, in December 2015, and that Battaglia’s condition appeared to have worsened after that fall. The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert opined that Battaglia should have healed within three to six weeks. However, the defense’s expert did not examine Battaglia, so the surgeon was not called at trial.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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