Case details

Plaintiff claimed rear-end crash caused bulging disc





Result type

Not present

bulging disc, cervical, neck, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On Aug. 12, 2016, plaintiff Denae Mendonca, an assistant restaurant manager in her 20s, was driving in stop-and-go traffic on southbound Interstate 5, in Orange County, near Santa Ana, when her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Shahrzad Shahabeddin. Mendonca claimed to her neck. Mendonca sued Shahabeddin, alleging that Shahabeddin was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Shahabeddin admitted liability for the accident., Mendonca presented to an urgent care facility the day after the accident. She did not see any other doctor until she returned to an urgent care facility six weeks later. Mendonca was ultimately diagnosed with a cervical disc bulge at the C5-6 level. After she was seen at urgent care for the second time, she underwent an MRI and an EMG, and followed up with chiropractic care and an orthopedist visit. The EMG came back normal, while the MRI showed the bulging cervical disc. Mendonca treated with physical therapy over the next four months. There was a 22-month gap where Mendonca had no treatment at all and she continued to work. However, she claimed that she started treating again when she began to have radicular pain and that she had two cervical epidural injections with a treating pain management doctor and got a second opinion at a visit with an orthopedist. Ultimately, she was recommended to undergo a future artificial disc replacement at the subject level. Mendonca’s counsel contended that Mendonca is a hard worker and has been independent since she was 16 years old. Although Mendonca worked as an assistant restaurant manager before the accident, she had to work for a retail store in a mall after the crash. Mendonca sought recovery of $40,000 in past medical costs, $16,000 to $20,000 in past lost wages, and $12,000 to $16,000 in future lost wages. She also sought recovery of future medical costs, and damages for her past and future pain and suffering. There was moderate property damage to Shahabeddin’s vehicle, while Mendonca’s vehicle had little visible damage. A California Highway Patrol officer responded to the scene and wrote a property-damage-only traffic collision report. Defense counsel disputed Mendonca’s alleged injury and damages. Counsel contended that the incident involved a low-speed collision. The defense called the California highway patrol officer to confirm that Mendonca had no complaints of pain at the scene and that Mendonca denied the need for an ambulance. Defense counsel also noted that Mendonca did not present to an emergency room after the accident. Defense counsel contended that Mendonca was involved in two prior motor vehicle collisions, after which she alleged neck pain. Counsel noted that the EMG after the subject accident came back normal and that Mendonca denied any prior neck pain in her discovery responses. Counsel also highlighted that Mendonca had an initial six-week gap in treatment and then a subsequent 22-month gap. The defense added that Mendonca never had the artificial disc replacement surgery, and asserted that Mendonca would not undergo the surgery in the future. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that Mendonca suffered only a strain and/or sprain at the subject cervical level, which should have resolved within three to four months. The expert also opined that Mendonca should have only had the initial four months of treatment and then no more, as he found that Mendonca’s should have resolved by then. The defense’s billing expert found that the usual and customary charges for Mendonca’s past medical treatment should have only totaled $13,000. In addition, defense counsel argued that Mendonca suffered no past lost wages, as the restaurant where she was working closed down shortly after the collision. In response, Mendonca’s counsel noted that the defense’s orthopedic surgery expert cited a published article to support his opinions, but on cross-examination, the expert was challenged by Mendonca’s counsel, as the article did not support the expert’s claims.
Superior Court of Orange County, Orange, CA

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