Case details

Plaintiff could have avoided crash, if paying attention: defense





Result type

Not present

ablation, back, lumbar facet, neck, wrist
On Dec. 9, 2016, plaintiff Sandra Manzo, a food preparation worker in her 30s who worked at a Jack in the Box restaurant, was driving on Hawthorne Boulevard, in Torrance. In the backseat, sat her three children, including her teenaged son, plaintiff Jonathan Valdivia Manzo. As their vehicle entered the intersection with West 116th Street, it broadsided a vehicle operated by Katherine Ky, who was driving on West 116th Street and had entered the intersection in an attempt to cross Hawthorne Boulevard. The Manzo vehicle impacted the rear, passenger side of Ky’s vehicle, causing Ky’s vehicle to spin out of control. Ms. Manzo claimed to her neck and back, and her son, Jonathan, claimed to his neck, back and a wrist. Ms. Manzo and Jonathan sued Ky, alleging that Ky was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Ms. Manzo testified that she did not see Ky’s vehicle crossing Hawthorne Boulevard at any time before the impact. Ky claimed that she had crossed halfway to the other side of Hawthorne Boulevard, and was almost to the other side of the intersection, when she paused before continuing on, but her vehicle was struck by Ms. Manzo’s vehicle. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert opined that Ky had crossed 90 percent of Hawthorne Boulevard when Ky’s vehicle was struck on the right side, toward the rear, by Ms. Manzo’s vehicle. The expert also opined that if Ms. Manzo was paying attention to the roadway, she would have seen Ky’s vehicle and could have just taken her foot off the accelerator, which would have allowed Ky to clear the intersection. Thus, Ky’s counsel argued that Ms. Manzo was at least comparatively fault for the accident because Ms. Manzo was not paying attention and should have seen Ky’s vehicle, which was already in the intersection, prior to the collision., Ms. Manzo and her children were taken by ambulance to an emergency room. Six to seven days later, Ms. Manzo presented to a chiropractor. Ms. Manzo claimed that she sustained to her neck and back. She underwent chiropractic care until she was discharged by her chiropractor. For the next nine months, she did not undergo any treatment. However, she eventually presented to a pain management specialist, per her attorneys suggestion. Ms. Manzo then received two or three facet injections to her lower back. She then underwent a radiofrequency ablation two weeks before trial. Ms. Manzo claimed that the facet injections were not giving her permanent relief and that she needed the ablation. She also claimed that despite the treatment, she still has issues with her lower back. The plaintiff’s treating pain management expert opined that Ms. Manzo would need repeat ablations for years to come because nerves grow back in the area of the alleged lower back injury. Thus, Ms. Manzo sought recovery of past and future medical costs, and damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Jonathan claimed he suffered to his neck and back, which ultimately resolved. He also claimed he suffered from wrist pain as a result of the subject accident. Although he claimed he hurt his wrist in the crash, he was not sure how and stated that he believes he may have hit it against the passenger seat or something else in the vehicle. There was no evidence presented in regard to a possible need of future medical treatment for Jonathan. Thus, Jonathan only sought recovery of past medical costs, and damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel noted that although Ms. Manzo claimed she hurt her wrist and neck, Ms. Manzo’s workers’ compensation physician, who treated Ms. Manzo for carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrist, was deposed and opined that Ms. Manzo’s wrist condition was a cumulative injury as a result of working at Jack in the Box for years. The physician also claimed that Ms. Manzo did not mention the subject accident in regard to her neck and wrist, and only claimed she hurt her back in the crash. As such, Ms. Manzo waived her claims regarding her alleged wrist and neck . Defense counsel contended that MRIs performed on Ms. Manzo after this accident were normal, and showed no degenerative changes or bulges. Counsel also noted the major gaps in Ms. Manzo’s medical treatment, and contended that Ms. Manzo was able to keep bending and moving after the accident. Defense counsel argued that if Ms. Manzo was really hurt, Ms. Manzo should not be able to lift 25-pound crates at work, which she was doing, and blaming her ongoing issues on the subject accident. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon testified that he found no issues with any facet or arthritis and that he would not have referred Ms. Manzo to pain management, but would have tried physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. The expert also testified that he found nothing in Ms. Manzo’s MRIs or physical exam that suggested facet joint issues. As a result, the expert questioned why Ms. Manzo was sent to a pain management physician. In regard to Jonathan, defense counsel contended that Jonathan had a pre-existing wrist fracture, which he sustained while playing soccer, and that the fracture had not healed properly, which left Jonathan with some limitations and pain.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys, CA

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