Case details

Plaintiff: Parking lot accident caused depression to be worse





Result type

Not present

brain, brain damage, brain injury, cognition, depression, emotional distress, face, facial, fracture, head, headaches, mental, nose, psychological, sensory, sinus, skull, speech, traumatic brain injury, vertigo
On Dec. 3, 2017, plaintiff Judith Garcia, 68, parked her vehicle in the Panda Inn parking lot, in Pasadena, and was walking to the sidewalk when she was struck by a sport utility vehicle operated by Thomas Kanegae. The force of the impact knocked Garcia to the ground, causing her head to strike the pavement. Garcia claimed to her face and head. Garcia sued Kanegae and Kanegae’s company, Thomas H. Kanegae, M.D., a Medical Corporation. Garcia alleged that Kanegae was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Kanegae’s medical office was vicariously liable for his actions while in the course and scope of his employment. Garcia’s counsel noted that, prior to the collision, Kanegae saw patients in various hospitals, dropped his daughter off at her mother’s house, talked to patients on his cell phone via the Bluetooth connection in the vehicle, and decided to stop at the Panda Inn Restaurant to pick up food to take home. Counsel contended that when Kanegae pulled into the lot, he noticed it was full of parked vehicles, pedestrians (including children and elderly people), and a large volume of moving cars and holiday traffic. Counsel contended that Kanegae turned left in an attempt to exit the parking lot but cut the corner short and struck Garcia. Garcia’s counsel also contended that, prior to the collision, Garcia walked 18 feet or more, and was three-fourths of the way across the parking lot when she was struck and that Garcia was walking in front of Kanegae’s vehicle, from Kanegae’s right to his left, at the time of the collision. In addition, counsel contended that the force of the impact knocked Garcia off her feet and out of her shoes and that Garcia fell to the ground with her head striking the pavement at a minimum of 15 mph. Garcia’s counsel asserted that because Kanegae cut the corner, he did not afford Garcia sufficient time to recognize or react to his intended travel path and that Kanegae would have had a clear view of Garcia walking with ample time to avoid her but failed to do so. Counsel also asserted that Kanegae was making a left turn around a blind corner in a full lot when he improperly cut the corner while turning at a speed that was excessive for the lot’s existing conditions. Garcia’s counsel further asserted that unlike Garcia, Kanegae had time to see and avoid Garcia, but that because Kanegae was inattentive, he failed to see Garcia at any time prior to the collision. Kanegae’s medical office claimed that Kanegae used his company vehicle for both business and personal errands and that at the time of the accident, Kanegae was using the vehicle for personal reasons. Kanegae claimed that he was traveling at less than 5 mph at the time of the accident and that never saw Garcia because Garcia suddenly and without warning darted out in front of his vehicle., After the collision, Kanegae got out of his vehicle to check on Garcia. He found that there was blood on Garcia’s face and head area, and he noted that she was unconscious. As a cardiologist who was also board certified in internal medicine, Kanegae also recognized that Garcia was having seizures. He estimated that Garcia was unconscious for approximately six to seven minutes. When paramedics arrived, Garcia was in an altered state of consciousness. Garcia was then taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed as having a traumatic brain injury, a right temporoparietal scalp hematoma, a right temporal bone fracture, a nondisplaced fracture along the right temporal bone, and a nondisplaced fracture along the posterolateral wall of the right sphenoid sinus. She was also determined to have a tiny focus of extra-axial pneumocephalus in left temporal convexity, which could have pointed to a nondisplaced fracture of the left temporal bone. Garcia claimed she suffers from memory loss, cognitive impairment and depression, as well as emotional and personality changes, as a result of her . In March 2018, she underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation. The physician reported that Garcia continues to suffer incident-associated memory loss. Garcia claimed that she has no memory of the accident or up to one week following the incident. She also claimed that she suffers from daily vertigo, pressure in her right ear, and occasional headaches. Her cognitive complaints include difficulty remembering parts of conversations, avoiding tasks that require sustained attention, a decline in reading comprehension with an inability to retain the majority of what she has just read, and word-finding difficulties that include producing words in conversations. Garcia claimed that as a result, she avoids reading, which she used to enjoy, and her friends often provide words for her. Emotionally, Garcia claimed that she now cries easily and has a real desire to not continue living. She also claimed that her mood is depressed and sad and that she has a lack of interest in activities that she used to enjoy. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Garcia has increased lability and verbal aggression toward family members, and has social disinhibition, in which Garcia says what is on her mind without hesitation. Counsel noted that while Garcia previously struggled with depression, Garcia explained to the physician that her condition was “…there before, but the accident took the lid off of the sadness” and that, now, she “can’t contain it.” Garcia also claimed that she was able to cope with her long history of depression before the accident, but that she now feels completely overwhelmed by her situation post-injury. Based on neuropsychological testing, the plaintiff’s neuropsychology expert opined that there was evidence of diminished attentional abilities and executive functioning. He also opined that the test results were consistent with the history of a moderate traumatic brain injury. As a result, the physician diagnosed Garcia as having a diffuse traumatic brain injury, a frontal lobe and executive function deficit, and a major depressive disorder. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Garcia’s deficits would likely be experienced as a significant change from Garcia’s typical level of premorbid facility with cognitive functions. Counsel also contended that the significant level of depression contributed to Garcia’s subjective experience of cognitive dysfunction and that the post-injury pattern of loss of emotional control, the emotional lability, irritability, social withdrawal and disinhibition are consistent with the types of behavioral sequelae of a traumatic brain injury. Defense counsel disputed the force of the impact, asserting that Kanegae was only traveling at 5 mph. Counsel also asserted that Garcia recovered from any injury she may have sustained and that Garcia’s problems stemmed from her pre-existing depression.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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