Case details

Plaintiff stopped without warning after passing stop sign: defense





Result type

Not present

brain, brain damage, brain injury, cognition, head, headaches neck, mental, psychological, traumatic brain injury
On Sept. 25, 2014, plaintiff Jennifer Au, a physician in her 30s, was exiting State Route 52, in San Diego, when her mid-size vehicle was rear-ended by a trailing sport utility vehicle operated by Amy Stern. Au claimed to her head and neck. Au sued Stern and the believed co-owner of Stern’s vehicle, Michael Stern. Au alleged that Amy Stern was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that Michael Stern was vicariously liable for Amy Stern’s actions. Michael Stern was dismissed from the case after it was determined that he did not have an ownership in the vehicle that his wife was driving. Au claimed she stopped at a stop sign at end of an off-ramp, but after making a right turn, her vehicle was struck by Amy Stern’s SUV. Defense counsel argued that Au initially made a right turn after the stop sign, but then stopped for no reason, without warning. Counsel noted that Au admitted she stopped, and argued that Au caused the accident., Au claimed she sustained a soft tissue injury to her neck and a traumatic brain injury that left her with migraines and memory deficits. She went to Scripps Green Hospital, in La Jolla, on the day of the accident. Au underwent three months of physical therapy in San Diego and then more than a year of physical therapy in Pennsylvania, where she returned after her fellowship at Scripps. She underwent an occipital nerve block 1.5 years after the accident to reduce her headaches. However, she claimed her headaches never completely went away. Au’s neuropsychology expert opined that Au’s migraines were caused by stress as a result of the physical impacts of the accident. Au claimed that she requires psychiatric and psychological treatment, continued nerve blocks and medication for her migraines. She also testified that her memory was impacting her ability to practice medicine. She claimed that she had to see fewer patients and that she could not keep up with the demands of work due to her bothersome headaches. Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Au $5,021,014 in total damages, which included around $350,000 for future medical costs and an unspecified amount of noneconomic damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Au did not make a loss-of-earnings claim and she did not submit her past medical specials to the jury. Defense counsel argued that the claim that Au lost consciousness at the scene was not established and that Au’s CT scan of the cervical spine was normal. Counsel also argued that Au’s MRI of the brain was negative. Defense counsel contended that Au had a prior history of migraines and that Au told her treating physicians that she had migraines since she was 13 years old. Counsel also contended that Au had other issues that could have caused her migraines, such as a high stress job, hormonal problems and temporomandibular joint syndrome. In addition, defense counsel noted that Au passed three medical board examinations after the subject accident, whereas she failed one of them before the accident. The defense’s psychiatry expert opined that Au’s memory deficits were no different than what the general public experiences and that Au’s neuropsychological testing showed no cognitive deficits, which Au’s neuropsychology expert agreed with. The defense’s expert also opined that Au’s migraines could be attributed to her stress.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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