Case details

Plaintiff’s injuries not as severe as alleged, defense argued





Result type

Not present

back, bulging disc, cervical, left hip, lower back, lumbar, lumbar neck, neck, strain
On July 7, 2010, at approximately noon, plaintiff Marie Horn, 25, a student and a citizen of Denmark, was driving a company vehicle on El Camino Real in Palo Alto. Horn had been in the United States for approximately four days and this was the first time she had driven a vehicle in the United States. As Horn approached a Valley Transportation Authority bus, which was stopped at the curb, she downshifted and eventually brought her vehicle to a complete stop behind the bus. Erin Goodrich, who was traveling behind Horn, rear-ended Horn’s vehicle. Horn claimed to her neck, lower back and left hip. Horn sued Goodrich, alleging the defendant was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Specifically, Horn contended that Goodrich caused the accident by traveling at an unsafe speed for the conditions and by failing to maintain an adequate lookout. Goodrich contended that Horn’s vehicle did not have working brake lights and that Horn made an unsafe and unnecessary stop, as Horn could have safely passed the VTA bus that was stopped at the curb. However, defense counsel contended that the accident was the result of all those involved acting unreasonably and that the verdict should reflect that fact. Counsel did not assign any percentage of fault to the parties, but merely left that decision up to the jury., On the day after the accident, Horn went to the Emergency Department at Stanford Hospital & Clinics in Stanford, where she was treated for neck and shoulder pain. She then returned to Denmark approximately four days after the accident and began treating with a physical therapist. Horn claimed that she developed chronic pain in her neck and lower back and that she also developed hip pain in the months after the accident. Her treating physician opined that Horn had developed chronic pain in her neck, lower back and hip, and that Horn would suffer residual effects for the rest of her life. At the time of the accident, Horn was a full time student at the Technical University of Denmark. She contended that as a result of her , she was forced to reduce her class load to part time, which resulted in a graduation delay of 2.5 years. The plaintiff’s expert economist testified that Horn was planning to become a medical engineer in Denmark upon graduation and that Horn could expected to make approximately $84,000 per year. However, he calculated that Horn’s graduation delay would result in a future wage loss of $337,185 over the next 10 years. Plaintiff’s counsel requested that the jury award Horn $674,370 in past pain and suffering, and $674,370 in future pain and suffering. This, totaled with Horn’s alleged loss of earnings, amounted to over $1,685,000. Horn waived her past medical damages and did not make a claim for any future medical care. Defense counsel conceded that Horn was injured, but argued that the nature and extent was not as severe as claimed. Counsel contended that approximately eight months after the accident, Horn admitted she was “pain free” for almost two months before returning to her doctor. As such, defense counsel argued that the jury should award “at least $25,000” in past pain and suffering, but left it up to the jury to determine if it felt more money was appropriate. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that Horn was no longer suffering any lasting issues with her lower back and that Horn’s neck pain was more likely attributed to her studies, rather than ongoing effects from the accident. He also opined that Horn’s hip problems were probably related to the accident, but that she could have a small surgical procedure to cure her ongoing hip problems. However, the expert explained that until such time that Horn scheduled the procedure, the likelihood of surgery was only a possibility and not a probability. The defense’s expert further opined that there is nothing about Horn’s that would have precluded her from maintaining a full load of classes at her university and that Horn should be able to return to all her extra-curricular activities. Defense counsel contended that there was insufficient evidence to support Horn’s allegations that her graduation delay was medically necessary. Counsel also disputed the opinion that it was reasonably certain that Horn would be employed immediately upon graduation and making $84,000 per year. Thus, defense counsel told the jury that it should reject the future wage loss claim and award Horn $0 for that claim. Defense counsel noted that he had flown Horn out for her independent medical exam with the defense’s orthopedic surgery expert in July 2013, approximately nine months before trial. Counsel contended that upon completion of the IME in San Francisco, Horn and her boyfriend went on a seven-day road trip through California, concluding their trip by spending three days in Las Vegas. Defense counsel noted that Horn even testified that while in Las Vegas, she and her boyfriend booked a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. Thus, counsel argued that Horn’s actions showed that she is no longer suffering any pain from the accident and that the jury should reject the claim for future pain and suffering, and award $0 for that claim.
Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Santa Clara, CA

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