Case details

Plaintiff claimed rear-end crash caused lower back injury





Result type

Not present

back, herniated disc
On Dec. 16, 2014, plaintiff Sandra Luciano, 43, was driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic on westbound State Route 91, in Los Angeles. Her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Edward Knopf. Luciano claimed to her neck and back. Luciano sued Knopf and the owner of Knopf’s vehicle, Jennifer Friedricks Knopf. Luciano alleged that Mr. Knopf was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Ms. Knopf was vicariously liable for Mr. Knopf’s actions. Ms. Knopf was ultimately removed from the case, and Mr. Knopf admitted liability for the collision., Luciano claimed she sustained a herniated disc at L5-S1. She presented to a hospital the morning after the accident with complaints of neck and back pain. She later treated with chiropractic care, pain management and epidural injections. After treating for approximately 1.5 years, Luciano told her doctors that she had no more pain in her lower back and then only treated for neck pain and did not seek further treatment to her lower back for more than a year. However, she claimed she had a flare-up 13 months later, in which her lower back pain was worse than before. As a result her physician recommended lumbar decompression surgery, which Luciano ultimately underwent on May 13, 2019. Luciano’s expert neurosurgeon opined that Luciano’s injury was traumatic and that even if it was degenerative, Luciano was asymptomatic before the accident. The expert also opined that Luciano’s treatment was reasonable and necessary. Luciano claimed that she will need future conservative care. According to plaintiff’s counsel, the court, based on pretrial motions in limine rulings, only allowed $116,860 out of $320,000 for Luciano’s past medical costs. So, Luciano sought recovery of $116,860 in past medical costs and an unspecified amount in future medical costs. She also sought recovery of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Defense disputed the nature and extent of Luciano’s . Counsel contended that Luciano’s back injury was degenerative and that there was a one year gap in Luciano’s treatments. Counsel also contended that Luciano told police that she was fine after the crash. As a result, defense counsel argued that Luciano’s back injury was not caused by the subject accident. The defense’s expert neurosurgeon opined that there was no nerve compression in Luciano’s lower back and that the surgery was unreasonable. The defense’s medical billing expert opined that Luciano’s bills were inflated and that only $29,000 in medical costs would be reasonable and customary. Defense counsel presented a sub rosa video of Luciano picking up a 24 pack of beer, going to the gym and attending her daughter’s cheer practice, despite Luciano claiming that she had issues going to the store and had to have help with lifting heavy objects. Four separate investigators testified on the last day of trial.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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