Case details

Plaintiff: Merging accident caused need for cervical fusion




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

back, cervical, fusion, neck, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On Sept. 9, 2011, at approximately 8 a.m., plaintiff Jocelyn Sicat, 32, a criminal defense lawyer, was driving in the number five lane on Interstate 710, in Long Beach, when she was involved in a sideswipe collision with a semi-truck operated by Stephen Whittleston, who was merging from the number four lane. Sicat claimed to her neck and back. Sicat sued Whittleston and J.B. Hunt, Whittleston’s employer and owner of the semi-truck. Sicat alleged that Whittleston was negligent in the operation of the truck, in violation of California Vehicle Code § 22350, and that J.B. Hunt was vicariously liable for Whittleston’s actions during the course and scope of his work for the company. Sicat contended that Whittleston made an illegal lane change from the number four lane to the number five lane, causing the collision with the driver side of her vehicle. Sicat claimed that as a result, her vehicle, a 2002 Audi, was totaled in the accident. Defense counsel asserted that Sicat was comparatively at fault for causing the accident. Counsel contended that Sicat should have seen a large semi-truck merging from her left side and, thus, shouldn’t have driven her vehicle in the truck’s blind spot., Sicat was taken from the scene of the accident by a good Samaritan and brought to an emergency room, where Sicat complained of severe neck and back pain. She was treated, prescribed pain medication, and released. She was also given a “no work” restriction with instructions to seek further treatment. Sicat was then examined by an orthopedic surgeon, who ordered an MRI, EMG, and a course of physical therapy. After several months, Sicat claimed physical therapy provided no relief. As a result, she was re-examined by her orthopedic surgeon, who opined that Sicat was a candidate for neck surgery. Sicat then obtained a second opinion from a neurosurgeon, who concurred with the orthopedic surgeon. Thus, Sicat underwent a cervical fusion, but it was delayed roughly one year due to her pregnancy. Sicat claimed the fusion surgery was successful, and completely remedied her symptoms of radicular pain and numbness to her left hand. She returned to work a few weeks after the surgery and did not make a lost earnings claim. (Sicat was fired from her job at a criminal defense firm, but was able to start her own, successful, private practice.) Thus, Sicat sought recovery of $107,000 in past medical costs. She also sought recovery of damages for her pain and suffering. Defense counsel disputed Sicat’s , asserting that the forces created by the crash couldn’t have caused a serious injury to a young woman.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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