Case details

Plaintiff: Sideswipe accident caused cervical herniation





Result type

Not present

back, cervical, fusion, herniated disc, left arm, neck, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
On June 28, 2012, at approximately 9:30 a.m., plaintiff James Heath, 32, a part-time salesperson, was driving on southbound Jackson Drive in San Diego when he was involved in a sideswipe collision with a van operated by John Romero, an electrician with the Water Department of the city of San Diego. Heath subsequently lost control of his vehicle, went up an embankment and then back onto the street, where he struck another vehicle and came to rest on a dirt embankment on the west side of Jackson Drive. Heath claimed to his neck, back and left arm. Heath sued Romero and the city of San Diego. Heath alleged that Romero was negligent in the operation of the van and that the city was vicariously liable for Romero’s actions since he was acting within the course and scope of his employment. Heath claimed Romero made an unsafe lane change maneuver, in that Romero failed to check if the left lane was clear before merging over. He alleged that he had to perform a precision immobilization technique maneuver as a result of Romero’s unsafe lane change and that this maneuver caused his vehicle to spin out of control. Defense counsel argued that Heath should not have passed Romero on the left. Thus, counsel asked the jury to consider whether Heath was contributorily negligent in causing the accident., On the date of the accident, Heath went to a Veterans Affairs hospital with complaints of neck and upper back pain. Shortly thereafter, he began to receive chiropractic treatment. The plaintiff’s treating chiropractor ultimately recommended that Heath be seen by an orthopedic surgeon, which Health did two months after the accident. Heath complained to the surgeon of ongoing neck and upper back pain with radiating pain down his left arm. As a result, the surgeon ordered an MRI, which revealed a 3-millimeter disc herniation at C5-6, compressing the exiting left nerve root. Heath claimed that due to his ongoing pain, his chiropractor also referred him to a pain management specialist, who performed a series of epidural steroid injections. However, Heath claimed he continued to experience pain and radicular symptoms following the injections, and was referred to a second orthopedic surgeon, who recommended surgery. He claimed a second opinion further verified his need for surgery. Thus, on Nov. 5, 2013, Heath underwent a C5-6 discectomy with decompression of the spinal canal, as well as decompression of the existing C6 nerve root. He also underwent a partial corpectomy and an anterior cervical fusion. Heath claimed that although the surgery resolved his radicular pain, he continues to experience neck pain and decreased range of motion. He alleged that as a result, he can no longer partake in several pre-accident activities and hobbies, most notably running and playing guitar. His treating/expert orthopedic surgeon opined that there was a better than 50-percent chance that Heath would require adjacent level surgery. Heath sought recovery of $173,769 in past medical costs and $95,000 in future medical costs. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel disputed the nature and extent of Heath’s alleged and damages. Counsel argued that Heath’s medical treatment and bills were excessive, and that Heath did not require future surgery.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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