Case details

Plaintiff claimed rear-end crash caused neck injuries





Result type

Not present

annular tear, back, cervical, fusion, head, headaches neck, herniated disc, neck
On March 3, 2014, plaintiff Lonny Johnson, 45, teacher of ancient history through medieval martial arts, was stopped on southbound Interstate 680, also known as the Donald D. Doyle Highway, in Danville, when his vehicle was rear-ended by a Chevy work truck operated by Robert Garcia. The impact caused a chain reaction, in that Johnson’s vehicle was pushed forward into the vehicle in front of him. Johnson claimed he sustained to his neck. Johnson sued Garcia and Garcia’s employer, Davis Development Co. Inc. Johnson alleged that Garcia was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Davis Development was vicariously liable for Garcia’s actions while acting in the course and scope of his employment. Garcia was ultimately removed as a defendant prior to trial. Davis Development admitted that Garcia was liable for the collision and that Garcia was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Thus, the matter proceeded to a trial on causation and damages only., Johnson claimed he injured his neck in the accident, resulting in neck pain, headaches and occasional radiating symptoms in his left arm. He alleged that his symptoms were caused by facet mediated pain and herniated cervical discs resulting from annular tears at the C4-5 and C5-6 levels, which were alleged to have occurred in the subject collision. Johnson subsequently presented to a doctor the next day, and later underwent multiple epidural steroid and facet injections, as well as medial branch blocks and radiofrequency ablations. He ultimately underwent a two-level cervical discectomy and fusion three years after the incident. Johnson claimed that the sustained in the crash caused the need for his treating physiatrist to perform the injections, ablations and medial branch blocks. He also claimed that the need for the cervical discectomy and fusion was also related to the accident. Johnson alleged that while he could continue to do his job of interactive history presentations to elementary school students, he was unable to continue with recreational sword fighting and the physical aspects of his business in teaching children about ancient history through medieval martial arts. In addition, he alleged that he could no enjoy his recreational activities. The plaintiff’s treating expert physiatrist opined that Johnson would require two facet injections and other pain management over the course of his life expectancy (which was estimated to be an additional 32 years). The plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon opined that Johnson would also eventually require an additional fusion surgery during his lifetime. Thus, Johnson sought recovery of $115,000 in past medical costs, $1.22 million in future medical costs and life care expenses, and an unspecified amount of damages for his past and future physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, physical impairment and emotional distress. His wife, Konstantina Johnson, initially presented a derivative claim, seeking recovery for her alleged loss of consortium, but she ultimately dismissed her claim. Defense counsel argued that while Mr. Johnson did sustain a soft tissue injury to his cervical spine as a result of the incident, Mr. Johnson’s acute cervical strain healed after approximately six weeks of physical therapy and before he left for a trip to Greece. The defense’s orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery experts opined that any of Mr. Johnson’s alleged symptoms and treatment after his return from Greece was the result of a longstanding, pre-existing condition that stemmed from medieval martial arts that Mr. Johnson sustained in 2003 and 2008. Both doctors noted that Mr. Johnson had over 150 chiropractic visits during the three years before the subject collision and used that as the basis of their opinions. The experts also based their opinions on the fact that Mr. Johnson reported that he was doing better after physical therapy, citing that his pain was a 1 out of 10, or “negligible pain,” and that Mr. Johnson then traveled to Europe approximately three months after the collision occurred. Defense counsel also highlighted that Mr. Johnson took seven trips to Europe over the four years that followed the collision in an effort to suggest that the non-economic damage portion of the claim was being exaggerated. The defense’s expert radiologist opined that the results of Mr. Johnson’s MRI studies revealed longstanding, age-related degeneration and did not reveal any evidence of a single traumatic event that would have produced an injury. In addition, all of the defense’s medical experts opined that Mr. Johnson’s prognosis was from degeneration and was related to complaints and problems that Mr. Johnson had before the collision.
Superior Court of Sacramento County, Sacramento, CA

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