Case details

Plaintiff complained of ongoing pain after intersection crash





Result type

Not present

back, fusion, herniated disc, lumbar, neck
On Dec. 29, 2015, plaintiff Thomas Lee, 49, a machinist, was driving in Gardena, near the Torrance boarder. As he entered the intersection of West 190th Street and Normandie Avenue, the passenger side of his vehicle was broadsided by a vehicle operated by Elaine Sumi. Lee claimed to his neck and back. Lee sued Sumi, alleging that Sumi was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Sumi admitted liability for the accident, and the parties agreed that the collision consisted of a heavy impact., Lee claimed he sustained herniated cervical and lumbar dics at the C5-6 and L4-5 level. He first sought treatment from a chiropractor and underwent 1.5 years of chiropractic care. During that time, he also presented to a Kaiser location and had multiple injections to his back and neck. When Lee continued to complain of pain, he ultimately underwent an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion and instrumentation surgery on the C5-6 level on July 12, 2017. He then underwent a right laminotomy on the L3-4 level and a laminectomy with posterior fusion on the L4-5 level on Nov. 1, 2017. Lee claimed that he was an “eggshell” plaintiff and that the subject accident was the final straw, causing him to begin having symptoms that resulted in multiple surgeries. He alleged that after the surgeries, he continued to suffer pain. He also alleged that he suffers from a foot drop and that he requires the use of a cane to walk. Lee alleged that as a result, he no longer hikes and cannot go camping, as he once did. Lee’s treating doctor opined that Lee is “basically disabled” from normal daily activities. Lee’s life care plan projected that Lee will require life care starting on Aug. 16, 2021, and ending on Dec. 11, 2046, with a life expectancy of 25.32 years, when he would be the age of 80.79. The plan consisted of physical and psychological therapies; aids for increasing independent function; medical provider visits; surgery and procedures; and imaging, labs and studies. Specifically, in regard to the future surgeries, Lee claimed that it was recommended that he undergo the implantation of a spinal cord stimulator for his ongoing pain. He also claimed that he would need to undergo a microdecompression surgery at the L3-4 level with an excision of the right facet joint cyst since the L3-4 level showed signs of stenosis. Lee further claimed that he would eventually require an anterior cervical disc replacement at the C4-5 level. The plaintiff’s expert life care planner testified that, based on Lee’s economic assessment, the present value cost of the life care plan totaled $1,504,962. Thus, Lee sought recovery of $2,535,630 in total economic losses for his past and future medical specials. He also sought recovery of non-economic damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Lee did not bring a claim for lost earnings or loss of earning capacity. In closing, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Lee $1,168,000 for his past non-economic damages and $5.84 million for his future non-economic damages. Defense counsel argued that all of Lee’s were soft tissue in nature and that Lee only sustained a sprain and strain. Counsel also argued that Lee’s surgeries were due to his pre-existing, degenerative disc disease and that they not related to the subject accident.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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