Case details

Plaintiff claimed rear-end crash caused lumbar injury





Result type

Not present

back, facet syndrome, neck
On Dec. 20, 2010, at approximately 7:30 p.m., plaintiff Margaret Merino, 53, an assistant kindergarten teacher, was driving in stop-and-go traffic on the northbound 405 Freeway in Los Angeles when she was rear-ended by a vehicle operated Hwa Bok Lee. Merino claimed to her neck and back. Merino sued Lee and the registered owner of Lee’s vehicle, Yu Kim. Merino alleged that Lee was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Kim was vicariously liable for Lee’s actions. The claims against Kim were ultimately not pursued. Lee admitted liability for the accident., On Jan. 4, 2011, Merino first presented to a chiropractor with complaints of neck and lower back pain. She subsequently underwent chiropractic treatment and completed a course of physical therapy. However, Merino claimed that her symptoms persisted. She was ultimately diagnosed with lumbar facet syndrome, for which she was recommended pain management treatment consisting of rhizotomy (radiofrequency ablation). Merino claimed she experienced significant relief as a result of the series of rhizotomy procedures, but she still experiences residual back pain, which continues to cause her discomfort at work and in her daily activities. She claimed that as a result, further rhizotomy procedures were recommended by her treating physician. Thus, Merino sought recovery of $83,000 in past medical costs (on lien), $65,000 in future medical costs for further pain management, and $250,000 in damages for her pain and suffering. Lee’s counsel argued that Merino did not sustain a lumbar facet injury, as diagnosed by Merino’s attorney-referred physician, but rather sustained soft-tissue strains and sprains of her neck and back that had resolved with minor treatment. Thus, counsel suggested that the jury award Merino $6,600 in past medical costs for chiropractic care, an MRI of the lumbar spine, a few doctor’s visits, and a home initiated weight loss program. Counsel also suggested that the jury award $6,000 for Merino’s pain and suffering.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys, CA

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