Case details

Plaintiff’s pain same before and after crash, defense argued





Result type

Not present

back, fusion, lower back, lumbar, neurological, radicular pain, radiculitis
At around 1 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2012, plaintiff Alan Cruz, 32, a day laborer, was working at a field located near the intersection of Jack Tone Road and Mariposa Road, in Stockton. While walking down the dirt road at the field, Cruz’s back made contact with a 1999 Toyota Tacoma operated by Agustina Serrano. Cruz claimed the incident injured his back. Cruz sued Ms. Serrano and the believed owner of Ms. Serrano’s vehicle, Hilario Serrano. Cruz alleged that Ms. Serrano was negligent in the operation of her motor vehicle and that Mr. Serrano was vicariously liable for Ms. Serrano’s actions. Mr. Serrano was ultimately dismissed from the case. Cruz claimed that Ms. Serrano was backing up her truck when it struck his back. Plaintiff’s counsel called a witness, who testified that Ms. Serrano was driving at the time of the incident and struck Cruz. Ms. Serrano denied that she was negligent, and contended that her truck was not moving at the time of the incident. She claimed that, instead, Cruz was intoxicated and bumped into her parked truck., Cruz claimed that he sustained an aggravation of a pre-existing condition in his lumbar spine and that the incident “lit up” a prior asymptomatic condition in his back. He also claimed that he sustained to his neck; upper, middle back; lower back; and left knee and that his spinal condition caused pain to radiate down his left leg. Cruz initially sought medical treatment on the day of the collision. He first attempted chiropractic treatment, aquatic therapy, and an epidural injection. However, he claimed he needed a two-level lumbar disc fusion. The plaintiff’s expert neurosurgeon testified that Cruz had pre-existing conditions in his lower back that were exacerbated by the collision. He also opined that Cruz would benefit from a posterior, oblique, lumbar arthrodesis at the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels. However, the surgery did not occur. Cruz sought recovery of $350,000, which included $150,000 for future medical expenses, $100,000 in damages for her past pain and suffering, and $100,000 in damages for her future pain and suffering. (Judge Roger Ross granted defense counsel’s motion for a directed verdict as to the issue of past medical expenses. Ross found that there was no evidence of Cruz’s past medical costs admitted during trial.) Defense counsel disputed Cruz’s alleged , and the nature and extent of the medical treatment sought by Cruz. Counsel denied that Cruz sustained any injury as a result of the incident and argued that Cruz’s complaints of lower back pain were consistent with those reported prior to the incident. Defense counsel argued that Cruz’s lower back pain was the result of multiple factors, including a history of prior , a motor vehicle crash that happened just six months before the subject incident, his labor-intensive job, and a congenital condition. Counsel further argued that Cruz did not need a two-level fusion surgery. Defense counsel produced surveillance video of Cruz, which allegedly seemed inconsistent with Cruz’s testimony about his activity level and the observations made by his treating physicians. In response, plaintiff’s counsel argued that the sub rosa video, performed after the close of discovery, was not entirely inconsistent with Cruz’s complaints. Counsel contended that at the time the video was taken, Cruz was taking pain pills and that the video showed Cruz walking around, occasionally placing his hand on his stomach or lower back, and, at one point, walking gingerly across the street toward the sidewalk.
Superior Court of San Joaquin County, San Joaquin, CA

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