Case details

Plaintiff: Rear-end collision caused cervical spine injuries





Result type

Not present

cervical, cervical disc displacement, disc protrusion, neck, sprain
At around 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2012, plaintiff Claudia Mena, 36, a loan processing manager, was driving to work on northbound Interstate 405, also known as the San Diego Freeway, in Los Angeles. While Mena was stopped in traffic, her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Jaime Perlman. Mena claimed to her neck and back. Mena sued Perlman, alleging that Perlman was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Specifically, Mena claimed that Perlman was texting on her cell phone and was inattentive to the roadway in front of her. Perlman admitted liability., Mena claimed she sustained protruding cervical discs at the C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7 levels with displacement of the intervertebral discs at C5-6 and C6-7, resulting in cervicalgia and lumbago. Following the collision, Mena did not request an ambulance at the scene and she went to work. However, later that evening, she presented to Willow Urgent Care, in Signal Hill, with complaints of a headache, neck pain, and back pain. Six days later, she followed up with Willow Urgent Care and was diagnosed with a neck sprain. As a result, Mena began a course of physical therapy to her neck, upper back, and mid-back two weeks later. She then presented to her treating orthopedic surgeon one month later with complaints of pain in her lower and middle back, as well as pain from her neck to her shoulders. Mena was subsequently referred for an MRI of the cervical and lumbar spine, and she was diagnosed with 1 millimeter, broad-based, posterior cervical disc protrusions at C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7 without evidence of canal stenosis or neural foraminal narrowing. She was also diagnosed with uncovertebral osteophyte formation, cervicalgia, lumbago, and displacement of the intervertebral discs at C5-6 and C6-7 without myelopathy. One month later, Mena underwent the first of a series of three cervical epidural injections at the C5-6 level by her treating orthopedic surgeon. Mena also continued with physical therapy, but she claimed she continued to have neck pain with bilateral shoulder pain. As a result, in December 2013, Mena underwent a left-sided C5-6 foraminotomy. Thereafter, Mena began a course of physical therapy. Mena claimed that her pain did not subside, so she saw her treating pain management specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who performed left-sided medial branch blocks at C3, C4, C5 and C6. However, she claimed her symptoms returned, so she underwent a spinal cord stimulator test implant. Given that the spinal cord stimulator allegedly provided some relief, Mena ultimately underwent a permanent implantation of a percutaneous spinal cord stimulator. Mena was able to return to work, but she claimed she had difficulty with her activities of daily living because she now had a device in her body that she had to deal with every day. Thus, Mena sought recovery of $266,290.58 in past medical expenses, an unspecified amount of future medical expenses, and an unspecified amount of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. The defense’s medical experts opined that Mena only sustained soft tissue cervical and lumbar sprains and strains and that Mena’s symptoms should have resolved six to eight weeks after the collision because she did not have any significant findings on the imaging studies. The experts also opined that Mena’s pain may have been due to a Chiari malformation rather than from the subject collision. Defense counsel argued that Mena’s were “iatrogenic” (i.e. caused by her doctors’ care). Thus, defense counsel asked the jury to award only $15,000 for Mena’s past medical expenses and zero for Mena’s alleged past and future pain and suffering.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Long Beach, CA

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