Case details

Plaintiff claimed rear-ender accident cause of neck pain





Result type

Not present

On April 8, 2012, plaintiff Todd Matlock, 49, a construction worker, was stopped on eastbound Appian Way Bridge, in Long Beach, when his 2000 Chevy Silverado was rear-ended by a Volkswagen sport utility vehicle operated by Heather Bradley. The force caused Matlock’s vehicle to be pushed into the car ahead of him. Matlock claimed to his neck. Matlock sued Bradley, alleging that Bradley was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Defense counsel conceded liability., Matlock did not complain of any to police or paramedics at the scene. Two days later, he presented to an emergency room with mild neck pain complaints, rating a three out of 10. Matlock was not given any medication, but, upon his release, he was instructed to follow up with his primary care physician upon, which he did three days later. After seeing his primary care physician, Matlock returned to a hospital five times over the next eight weeks and was referred to physicians each time. Physician notes reflected that Matlock refused pain medications, that he “sometimes” did the recommended home exercises, and that he did not buy a recommended bean bag for heat to the area of his complaints. Matlock’s primary care physician sent him to physical therapy two months later, and Matlock completed a total of nine physical therapy visits totaling $400 per visit, apparently billed to his MedPay. When Matlock ran out of MedPay, he hired his counsel. Matlock was then sent to his treating orthopedic surgeon four months later. However, Matlock stopped physical therapy and was sent for an MRI and bone scan. He was then seen three times by his treating orthopedic surgeon, during which Matlock’s bone scan was determined to be normal, and Matlock’s MRI was determined to only show degenerative changes and stenosis in his cervical spine with no compression present. As a result, the plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon wanted to do one diagnostic epidural injection, and he sent Matlock to a pain management physician for one consult and a possible injection, as they wanted to figure out the source of the pain and to see if the injection gave Matlock any relief. However, Matlock refused the injections and had no other treatment for one year until trial. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that Matlock’s treating orthopedic surgeon, the pain management physician, the MRI, and the bone scans were included on Matlock’s medical lien. Counsel contended that Matlock’s total past medical costs amounted to $16,102, Counsel also contended that Matlock’s future medical costs would be between $3,000 and $4,000 per epidural injection (with a possibly of a series of three injections being needed), resulting in future medical costs totaling between $12,000 and $15,000. Matlock, who worked as a construction worker, had no licenses as a tile and stone worker, was paid in cash, never filed taxes (which the judge let in over objection), and lived with his mother for the last 20 years. He is also divorced with one 25-year-old daughter in Reno. Matlock claimed that he currently suffers pain with heavy lifting that limits him from doing his work in construction (despite a waiver of his loss of earnings). He also claimed that he cannot surf, ride his motor boat, play pool, or care for his elderly mom due to the severe pain that sets after doing these activities. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Matlock $16,102 in past medical costs, $15,000 in future medical costs, $48,000 in damages for past pain and suffering and $45,000 in damages for future pain and suffering. Defense counsel noted that there was minimal damage to the front, non-party vehicle and no alleged at the scene. Counsel also noted that the back of Matlock’s vehicle had moderate damage and that Bradley’s vehicle had major damage, with Bradley’s vehicle being the only one that needed to be towed. However, both Matlock’s and Bradley’s vehicles were deemed a total loss. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that Matlock sustained only a soft-tissue injury and testified that there was no indication that Matlock needed to see an orthopedic surgeon, or receive an MRI or bone scans. The expert also testified that there were no problems on Matlock’s exam and that there was no evidence of nerve compression on the films. As a result, the orthopedic expert testified that six to eight weeks of physical therapy should have been sufficient to treat Matlock’s alleged injury. Defense counsel introduced a sub rosa video, taken six weeks before trial, which allegedly showed Matlock washing his car for over 30 minutes in front of his house. Thus, defense counsel disputed the nature and extent of Matlock’s damages, arguing that Matlock’s injury was not caused by the accident and that Matlock should be awarded null.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Torrance, CA

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