Case details

Plaintiff: Multiple vehicle crash caused new lower back injury





Result type

Not present

back, lower back, neck, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On March 24, 2008, plaintiff Constance Lopez, 52, an executive assistant at the Stockton Unified School District, was stopped in her vehicle on eastbound Cedar Way in Stockton. Her vehicle was subsequently struck by plaintiff Jonathan Cearley, who was southbound on Alexandria Place, after his vehicle was struck by a vehicle operated by Say Vann, who turned left in front of Cearley’s vehicle from northbound Alexandria Place. The collision between Cearley and Vann caused Cearley’s vehicle to strike Lopez’s vehicle head-on, allegedly causing Lopez to sustain lower back . Lopez and Cearley sued Vann, alleging that Vann was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Cearley, who claimed he sustained soft-tissue to his neck and back, ultimately settled with Vann prior to trial. Vann conceded liability, and the matter went to nonbinding arbitration. The arbitrator then awarded Lopez $50,000, but Vann’s insurer refused to pay. Thus, the matter continued to an expedited jury trial., Lopez sustained soft tissue to her lower back. She claimed that this caused her to suffer from radiating pain from the left cheek of her buttocks to her left leg. Lopez subsequently treated with her family medicine physician and with 50 visits to her chiropractor. She also underwent about 11 sessions of physical therapy, and allegedly treated with yoga and stretching. However, she claimed she still has flare ups. Discovery revealed that Lopez injured her lower back at work, five years prior to the subject motor vehicle accident, and that she treated with three years of physical therapy. However, Lopez claimed that she was not treating for pain in her lower back prior to the motor vehicle accident, as she had been asymptomatic for about 20 to 24 months. Lopez testified that after the motor vehicle accident, she could no longer do yard work, which she enjoyed, and, instead, had to hire out the work. She also testified that because she sits at her desk at work the whole day, her buttocks would seize up and cause a burning sensation that radiates into her left hamstring. In addition, she claimed that she would have to retire sooner than she had planned due to her back condition. Thus, Lopez sought recovery of past medical costs, consisting of $300 for treatment with her family medicine physician, $4,600 for 50 visits to her chiropractor, and $1,700 for physical therapy. She also sought recover of $5,800 in property damage to her vehicle. In addition, she sought recovery of damages for her pain and suffering. Defense counsel noted that MRIs taken of Lopez’s lower back after the motor vehicle accident showed only degenerative changes and nothing significant. Thus, counsel contended that Lopez’s alleged soft tissue were only worth $1,700.
Superior Court of San Joaquin County, San Joaquin, CA

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