Case details

Plaintiff had emotional issues before crash, defense argued





Result type

Not present

back, brain, brain injury, cognition, head, impairment, mental, neck, psychological, traumatic brain ., traumatic brain injury
On Oct. 15, 2011, plaintiff Debra Lewis was driving in Lancaster when her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Dale Bruhl. Lewis claimed to her head, neck and back. Lewis sued Bruhl and the owner of Bruhl’s vehicle, his employer, Midwest Environmental Control Inc. Lewis, who appeared pro se, alleged that Bruhl was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Midwest Environmental Control was vicariously liable, as owner of the vehicle, for Bruhl’s actions. (Although Bruhl was employed by Midwest Environmental Control Inc., he was not on the job at the time of the collision.) Bruhl ultimately admitted liability for the crash., Lewis alleged that she suffered a traumatic brain injury, as well as general pain to her neck and back. She was subsequently taken by ambulance to a hospital, and then sought treatment from a chiropractor, a neuropsychologist, and a psychologist. Lewis alleged that although her neck and back resolved, her traumatic brain injury left her with cognitive impairments and emotional/psychological problems. She was ultimately able to be accepted into Casa Colina Hospital for Rehabilitative Medicine, in Pomona, and months before trial, she was admitted into an in-house program, where she spent a month or two. Lewis did not disclose all of her treating doctors or experts, but did disclose her treating doctors from Casa Colina. As a result, she was not able to submit any of her bills or testify as to her treatment for her allegedly insignificant neck and back . Lewis’ husband, plaintiff Ed Lewis, who also appeared pro se, testified that his wife changed significantly after the accident. Specifically, he claimed that Ms. Lewis used to help him with his business, but that she no longer does since she now loses her train of thought. He also claimed that they used to be very lovey-dovey all the time, but that now Ms. Lewis is a “harpy” who yells at him. In addition, he claimed they used to have sexual relations five times a day, but now they never do. Thus, Mr. Lewis sought recovery for his loss of consortium. He also asked the jury to award his wife an amount that would “fix to make her the old Debra.” Defense counsel called the ambulance driver, the responding firemen, and the paramedics to testify, and they claimed that Ms. Lewis had a Glasgow Coma score of 15 and that she was alert and conscious. They also refuted that Ms. Lewis was unconscious, but they admitted that she complained of back pain at the scene. Bruhl, who admitted fault, even he told the jury that Ms. Lewis complained of back pain. In addition, defense counsel contended that Ms. Lewis admitted that although she said her symptoms included that she could not control her yelling and that she yells at everyone, she has done the same for 20 years before the accident. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert testified that the accident was less than 15 mph and that the Delta-V was seven to eight. Thus, the expert opined that it was a relatively minor accident. The defense’s expert neurologist opined that Ms. Lewis had no brain injury due to the collision and that her emotional problems were longstanding and had probably existed prior to the accident. The defense’s neuropsychology expert, who examined Ms. Lewis, opined that Mrs. Lewis had pre-existing emotional and psychological sequelae. In closing, defense counsel argued that Ms. Lewis’ back pain had resolved and that she did not suffer a brain injury in the collision. Thus, defense counsel suggested that the jury should award Ms. Lewis only up to $15,000.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Lancaster, CA

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