Case details

Plaintiff claimed rear-ender caused need for future back surgery





Result type

Not present

back, herniated disc, neurological, radiculopathy
On Oct. 28, 2011, plaintiff Keri Dillman, 40, a co-owner of a plumbing company, was at a complete stop in her vehicle on the 210 Freeway, in San Bernardino, between 5th Street and 10th Street. Subsequently, her vehicle was rear-ended by a tow truck operated by Hector Reyes, who admitted to traveling at 40 mph at the time of impact. Dillman claimed back from the accident. Dillman sued Reyes; the tow truck owner, JLM Towing Services Inc.; and the owner of JLM Towing, Moises Serrano. Dillman alleged that Reyes was negligent in the operation of the tow truck and JLM Towing Services and Serrano were vicariously liable, as Reyes was operating the tow truck in the course and scope of his employment with JLM Towing Services. Reyes admitted liability., Dillman claimed she sustained lumbar disc herniations at the L4- and L5-S1 levels. She also claimed she suffered radiculopathy and pain in her back. She initially refused an ambulance at the scene, as she was in the vehicle with her fiancé and child, and it was her priority to get her child home. Dillman ultimately started chiropractic care on Nov. 10, 2011, and then saw a pain management specialist in March 2012, while she was undergoing physical therapy. She then had surgical consultations and underwent her first MRI in June 2012. Dillman ultimately received five epidural injections and a trigger point injection. Dillman claimed that the injections of steroid-based painkillers provided her temporary relief. In her deposition, she stated that she could not move and that her pain, on a good day, was a five or six out of 10 and that on a bad day, it was a 10 out of 10. Thus, Dillman claimed she had one act in her per day, such as if she got up in the morning, she could either vacuum or do dishes, but not both. She also claimed she had no mobility to exercise and lost the ability to do what she did before. Dillman co-owned a small local plumbing company with her fiancé and helped to run the company. She claimed that a lot of her work was physical and that after the accident, her work changed to occasionally invoicing from home. Lumbar surgery was indicated, but at the time of trial, she weighed approximately 275 pounds. As a result, all surgeons that she saw said that the surgery was not safe to perform at Dillman’s weight and that the rate of success would decline as the weight increased for the surgical candidate. Thus, the surgeons wanted Dillman to decrease her weight to 200 to 220 pounds before they attempted the surgery. The plaintiff’s expert neurosurgeon testified that Dillman had a degenerative back condition, like everyone does as they age, but that Dillman was asymptomatic before the accident. Thus, the expert opined that the subject accident exacerbated Dillman’s underlying degenerative condition and gave rise to all her symptoms. He also opined that this necessitated the need for future surgery and that surgery would be the only available option to resolve Dillman’s symptoms. The plaintiff’s medical billing expert testified that Dillman’s past medical bills totaled $189,000. Defense counsel disputed Dillman’s alleged . The defense’s radiology expert reviewed the diagnostic images and found no indication of any acute injury. Thus, the radiologist opined that all of the findings were degenerative in nature. The defense’s medical billing expert opined that Dillman’s medical bills would only total approximately $77,000. The defense’s neurology expert opined that the entire subjective complaints of pain from Dillman were psychologically generated and that there was no evidence of any objective injury to the lumbar levels. The expert also opined that all of the MRIs and EMGs were wrongly interpreted and that all Dillman needed to recover would be six weeks of chiropractic care from the date of the incident, plus extensive ongoing psychological counseling to cope with depression, which the expert believed Dillman suffered from. In addition, the expert opined that Dillman was presented with an opportunity to financially gain from the accident and that Dillman was exploiting this. In response, plaintiff’s counsel noted that the defense’s expert life care planner admitted in deposition that, although multiple physicians opined that Dillman would need surgery, she relied on the defense neurologist’s opinion, as she was hired by the defense. Plaintiff’s counsel also noted that Judge Pamela Preston King ruled in favor of the plaintiff and excluded the defense’s neurology expert’s testimony from the case.
Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA

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