Case details

Plaintiffs claimed back and toe injuries from sideswipe





Result type

Not present

back, contusion, steroid injection epidermis
On Dec. 23, 2008, plaintiff Nancy Romero, 18, was operating a Volkswagen Beetle with plaintiff Christian Olivares as a passenger when a delivery truck operated by Juan Castro made a lane change and sideswiped their vehicle. Nancy claimed lower back and Olivares suffered a toe injury from the crash. Nancy and Olivares sued the truck driver, Castro, and the owners of the truck, Smart Office Interiors and Donahue Transportation. They alleged that Castro was negligent in the operation of his truck, and that Smart Office Interiors and Donahue Transportation were vicariously liable for Castro’s actions. The defendants stipulated to liability., Nancy was diagnosed with a large, right-sided lumbar disc extrusion at the L4-5 level shortly after the accident. She subsequently underwent lumbar steroidal injections between February 2009 and May 2009, and a follow-up MRI in April 2012 revealed the extrusion had resorbed. However, Nancy claimed that the new MRI also showed accelerated degenerative endplate changes. The plaintiff’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that the bony changes, combined with Nancy’s subjective complaints of ongoing pain, made it reasonably medically certain that Nancy would require a lumbar fusion with disc replacement sometime during her lifetime. (Nancy’s life expectancy was 58 years.) Additionally, the plaintiff’s expert pain management specialist opined that, as an alternative or adjunct to the future fusion, Nancy would require one to five lumbar injections per year for the rest of her life. Following the completion of two additional prerequisite courses in the fall 2012 term, Nancy will begin the Licensed Vocational Nursing/Resident Nursing program at Santa Barbara City College in January 2013. However, she claimed her injury would preclude her from becoming a “bedside nurse” once she received her LVN/RN license. Thus, Nancy’s counsel asked the jury to award Nancy $1.5 million in total damages. Nancy claimed $13,000 in Howell medical expenses, with her billed expenses being approximately $29,000. She also claimed $50,900 in past loss of earnings, between $120,000 and $140,000 for future loss of earnings, $154,000 for future surgery, between $464,000 and $1.5 million for future injections, and $800,000 for past and future pain and suffering. Olivares sustained a contusion to his big toe. He sought recovery of damages for his past medical expenses and pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that Nancy’s potential for a future lumbar fusion was no greater than 20 percent. Counsel also argued that Nancy’s academic performance to date made her success in the Santa Barbara City College LVN/RN program less than reasonably certain. Additionally, defense counsel argued that Nancy’s future loss of income claim was questionable, considering her demonstrated academic capacity and work history as a certified nursing assistant and home health aide since the accident. Defense counsel noted that Nancy enrolled in a cardio boxing class at Santa Barbara City College in three terms after the accident, with two of the classes being successfully completed and Nancy still being scheduled to be in the third class in the coming fall term. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon conceded that Romero would experience flare-ups in the future and that it would be appropriate to allow her another round of injections in that instance.
Superior Court of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara, CA

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