Case details

Plaintiff’s shoulder injury not caused by collision: defense





Result type

Not present

back, injury, loss of consortium, neck, rotator cuff, shoulder, tear
On July 10, 2010, at approximately 6:30 p.m., plaintiff Eric Styner, 51, an oil refinery engineer, was driving east on an interstate in the city of Banning when he was involved in a high-speed side-swipe collision with a vehicle operated by Salvador Fuentes. Styner claimed to his neck, lower back, and left shoulder. Fuentes ultimately pleaded guilty to felony drunk driving causing injury, and received a 120-day sentence. Styner sued Fuentes, alleging the defendant was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Styner’s wife and two minor children originally brought claims against the defendant, as well, but they were dismissed from the case. Thus, only the wife’s loss-of-consortium claim remained along with her husband’s personal injury claims. Styner claimed that Fuentes was racing another car, traveling between 80 and 85 mph, at the time of the accident. He alleged that his vehicle was struck when Fuentes was changing lanes, in attempt to catch the other car. Plaintiffs’ counsel presented two eyewitnesses — who were in a car traveling behind Styner — that corroborated Styner’s account of the accident by testifying that Fuentes was splitting/drifting between lanes, as if he were racing and intoxicated. The jury was informed about Fuentes’ felony drunk driving conviction, and the responding California Highway Patrol officer opined that Fuentes was at fault. Fuentes testified that he started drinking at 10 a.m. on the morning of July 10, 2010, and had a total of ten beers. He claimed that while he was intoxicated (with a blood alcohol content of .208), he was driving his vehicle fine. Defense counsel presented an eyewitness to testify, but the witness was impeached at trial., Styner was taken by ambulance to an emergency room, where he was treated and released. He returned three days later with complaints of neck, back, and primarily left shoulder pain. He underwent an MRI that revealed a torn rotator cuff of the left shoulder. Styner subsequently received multiple epidural injections for pain and underwent physical therapy. Styner claimed his shoulder injury has limited his abilities as an oil refinery engineer. He alleged he missed three months from work and can no longer work overtime, per doctor’s orders. He also alleged that he can no longer play with his sons or perform activities like he used to. Styner claimed that as a result, surgery was recommended for his shoulder. Styner claimed $17,000 in past medical costs, $20,000 in future medical costs, $200,000 in lost earnings, and an unspecified amount of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. In addition, his wife, Tessa Styner, sought recovery of damages for her loss of consortium. Thus, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award the Styners $452,000 in total damages. Defense counsel disputed causation, arguing that Mr. Styner did not suffer a torn rotator cuff from the accident. Counsel contended that Mr. Styner already had the rotator cuff tear and that the accident did not worsen the condition. Thus, defense counsel argued that Mr. Styner might have suffered soft-tissue from the accident, but nothing more.
Superior Court of Riverside County, Riverside, CA

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