Case details

Plaintiff had lengthy, prior history of spinal problems: defense





Result type

Not present

anterolisthesis, back, bulging disc, disc protrusion, hands, left leg, left shoulder, lower back, lumbar, lumbar knee, neck, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On July 30, 2013, plaintiff Paulette Callender, 58, a cashier on disability, was pushing a cart while walking west along Magnolia Avenue, in Riverside. As she began to cross Ross Street, she was struck by a vehicle operated by Rick Loper, who was pulling away from a stop sign on northbound Ross Street. Loper then got out of his vehicle and helped Callender to the other side of the road. Callender allegedly told him that she was fine and that he could leave. However, after Loper left, Callender collapsed in a store, and the police and an ambulance were called to the scene. Callender claimed that she sustained to her neck, lower back, left shoulder, both hands, and left leg. Callender sued Loper, alleging that Loper was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Callender claimed that she stood at the corner and waited until Loper stopped his vehicle before she attempted to cross. She claimed she thought Loper saw her, so she began to cross the street. However, she claimed that Loper’s vehicle pulled away from the stop sign and struck her left leg, knocking her down. Loper claimed that he stopped for a stop sign at the limit line on northbound Ross Street and that he was intending to make a right turn onto Magnolia Avenue. He claimed that as a result, he looked to his right and did not see any pedestrians and then looked to his left for oncoming traffic before rolling forward. However, he alleged that as he released the brake, he saw Callender directly in front of him. Loper claimed that he applied his brakes, but his vehicle still struck Callender and the cart she was pushing. However, he denied that Callender fell down, and claimed that she only placed her hand on the hood of his car. In addition, he claimed that he only left the scene after helping Callender to the other side of the road and she told him that she was fine and that he could leave. Thus, defense counsel contended that Callender was comparatively negligent for stepping in front of the vehicle without making eye contact with Loper., Callender alleged to her neck, left shoulder, lower back, both hands, and left leg. After walking from the scene of the accident, she collapsed in a store. As a result, the police and an ambulance were called, and Callender was taken to a hospital. A cervical MRI noted disc desiccation throughout the cervical spine and reduced intervertebral disc height was noted at C5-6 and C6-7. She was also determined to have Grade I retrolisthesis — an acute, degenerative or congenital condition in which a vertebra in the spine becomes displaced and moves backward — of the cervical spine at C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7. In most cases, retrolisthesis occurs when a soft disc that separates and cushions vertebrae either deteriorates or ruptures. Without the support of the disc, the upper vertebra slips out of place and puts pressure on the bone below it. A person who experiences the condition may have a number of symptoms, including chronic back pain, stiffness, and numbness. On Callender’s thoracic and lumbar MRI, early disc desiccation was noted at the T10-11 and L1-2 levels. Diffuse lumbar disc protrusions were also noted at the L1-2, L4-5, and L5-S1 levels. In addition, Grade 1 anterolisthesis of the lumbar spine at L4 and L5 was noted without evidence of a pars fracture. Anterolisthesis is a spinal disorder characterized by a dislocation of at least one vertebra relative to another. It occurs when an upper vertebral body, the main part of a vertebra, slips forward relative to the vertebra below. As it moves out of position, it can pinch the spinal nerves connected to the vertebrae involved in the displacement and potentially damage the spinal cord. The condition is graded by severity on the basis of how far forward a vertebra has slipped. In addition, an MRI of Callender’s right knee showed a Baker’s cyst posteromedial to the knee joint, a small knee joint effusion, and fluid extending into the recesses of the suprapatellar bursa. In addition, the MRI showed a fabella bone (an extra sesamoid bone, located laterally, behind the knee) located posterior to the lateral femoral condyle and a Wiberg type 2 patella. The Wiberg classification system is used to describe the shape of the patella. In this case, the MRI showed a Wiberg type 2 patella, in which the medial facet was slightly smaller size and the lateral facet was concave, resulting in lateral subluxation, or an unstable kneecap, which is a disabling condition caused by an imbalance in the medial and lateral forces in the knee. Callender underwent epidural injections to the lumbar spine at the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels on three occasions in January 2014, and one epidural injection to the cervical spine in March 2014. She then underwent lumbar decompressive surgery at the L4-5 level, bilaterally, and at the L5-S1 level, on the right side. Callender claimed that she is left with continued neck pain and radiating pain. As a result, decompressive surgery, bilaterally, at the cervical level was recommended. The plaintiff’s biomechanical expert opined that the impact, as described, would have caused Callender to be struck on her knee, causing a lot of force on her lower back. The expert opined that as a result, Callender could have been knocked down to the ground. The plaintiff’s neurosurgery expert opined that the surgery was reasonable, necessary, and caused by the accident. The expert further opined that future neck surgery is necessary. The plaintiff’s expert in life care planning testified that Callender’s future life care plan was researched and would cost $789,679, which included the neck surgery. Based on the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert life care planner, the plaintiff’s economics expert opined that Callender’s future treatment costs were appropriate. Thus, Callender, who was 61 at the time of trial, sought recovery of $308,000 in total past medical costs and $789,679 in total life care plan costs over 24.5 years. In addition, she sought recovery of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. The defense’s neurosurgery expert opined that all of Callender’s pre-surgery were accident-related and that the need for surgery was not solely from the accident, but was due to an exacerbation of Callender’s pre-existing . However, plaintiff’s counsel noted that the defense’s expert conceded on cross-examination that all of Callender’s medical care and treatment, except for the back surgery, was reasonable, necessary, and consistent with the accident. The defense’s expert neurosurgeon also conceded that Callender’s back surgery was due to prior conditions that were exacerbated by the accident. As a result, the expert opined that Callender’s back surgery was reasonable and necessary, and that future neck surgery would not be unreasonable or unnecessary. Defense counsel called Callender’s family doctors, and they testified about Callender’s long history of pre-existing and treatment to her neck, lower back, and hands. Loper’s insurance policy had a $500,000 limit, but it was open at the time of trial.
Superior Court of Riverside County, Riverside, CA

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