Case details

Plaintiff struck vehicle in front of her, causing second crash: defense





Result type

Not present

back, cervical, fusion, herniated disc, lumbar, neck
On Jan. 16, 2010, plaintiff Cynthia Hongpanich, a 31-year-old unemployed woman on disability, was traveling in her vehicle with her dog on the 110 Freeway near downtown Los Angeles. When Hongpanich was near the Hill Street off-ramp, she was involved in a multiple-vehicle rear-end collision, whereby her vehicle struck the vehicle in front of her and was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Shaun Kosta. After the collision, all three vehicles went onto a side street to exchange information. However, the first vehicle’s driver did not exchange information with Hongpanich or Kosta, and he left the scene shortly thereafter. Hongpanich claimed neck and back from the accident. Hongpanich sued Kosta for motor vehicle negligence. Hongpanich claimed that her vehicle was rear-ended by Kosta’s vehicle and that the force of this collision caused her vehicle to propel into the vehicle in front of her. Kosta claimed that the accident occurred after Hongpanich struck the first vehicle and stop suddenly on the freeway, causing him to be unable to avoid rear-ending Hongpanich’s vehicle in front of him. Thus, Kosta contended he was not negligent because he faced an emergency situation that was not caused by his own misconduct, but rather by Hongpanich’s conduct., Hongpanich claimed that she sustained a C4-5 disc herniation, as well as a small lower back herniation, as a result of the accident. She was subsequently seen by her treating orthopedic surgeon of Tower Orthopedics on Jan. 28, 2010, and was referred for physical therapy. Hongpanich then continued to treat with her orthopedic surgeon until July 2010 and receive physical therapy until August 2010. Thereafter, she did not see her treating orthopedic surgeon until June 2011 and after that one visit, she did not return again until April 2012. In June 2012, Hongpanich underwent an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion for a C4-5 disc herniation. The surgery was performed by her treating orthopedic surgeon’s partner, the plaintiff’s neurosurgery expert. Hongpanich continued to make other complaints, including pain from her small lower back herniation, for which she claimed she would eventually require surgery. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Hongpanich $1,033,000 in total damages. Defense counsel noted the gaps in Hongpanich’s treatment and contended that the findings on the MRIs taken about one month after the accident were of a degenerative nature. Counsel also contended that Hongpanich only suffered soft-tissue that should have resolved within 12 weeks. Thus, defense counsel argued that the June 2012 surgery was not caused by the subject accident.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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