Case details

Rear-end collision caused spinal injuries, plaintiffs alleged




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

cervical kyphosis, degenerative disc disease spinal stenosis, headaches, injuries to neck and back, myelomalacia, sprains and spasms
On Nov. 1, 2012, at approximately 6:20 p.m., plaintiff George Medina, a 68-year-old retired man, was driving a 2006 Toyota Camry on the southbound side of Sierra Street, in Solana Beach. His wife, plaintiff Louise Medina, a 65-year-old retired woman, was a front-seat passenger. As Mr. Medina brought his vehicle to a stop, his vehicle’s rear was struck by a trailing Lexus RX 200 sport utility vehicle that was being driven by Jim Vangelis. After the accident, the parties exchanged information, but the police were not contacted and an accident report was never filed. Both vehicles were able to be driven from the scene. However, Mr. and Ms. Medina each later claimed injuries to their neck and back. The Medinas sued Vangelis and Vangelis’ business, Sunwest Co. The Medinas alleged that Vangelis was negligent in the operation of his SUV and that Sunwest Co. was vicariously liable for Vangelis’ actions. Mr. Medina claimed that when he observed a woman with two young children attempting to jaywalk across Sierra Street, he subsequently slammed on his vehicle’s brakes to avoid striking them. Thus, plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Vangelis was following too closely, causing him to not have enough time to perform an evasive measure and avoid the accident. Vangelis claimed that there were no pedestrians present at the time of the accident and that the Medina vehicle stopped in the middle of the road for no reason. He also claimed that that Ms. Medina was the actual driver at the time of the collision and that Mr. Medina was the front-seat passenger. According to Vangelis, Ms. Medina exited Toyota Camry after the accident and apologized to him for stopping abruptly. He also claimed that Ms. Medina told him that she did not know why she stopped., Ms. Medina was ultimately diagnosed with reactive myelomalacia and cervical kyphosis, or an increased convexity in her cervical spine, while Mr. Medina claimed sprains and spasms to his neck and back. Five days after the accident, Ms. Medina presented to her primary care physician and complained of pain in her back and abdomen. She also complained of headaches. Her doctor prescribed pain medication and a course of physical therapy, which was rendered twice per week over the course of six months. Approximately 11 months after the accident, Ms. Medina consulted with a pain management specialist for pain that stemmed from her right dominant shoulder and neck. On Oct. 7, 2013, Ms. Medina received a cervical epidural steroid injection to her neck at the C5-6 level and in December 2013, she underwent a second epidural steroid injection at the same level/site. The injections involved the administration of a local anesthetic to the injection site. On Dec. 18, 2013, several days after the second injection, Ms. Medina returned to a hospital and was diagnosed with reactive myelomalacia, which is a softening of the spinal cord, allegedly caused by a complication from the second injection. As a result, she underwent a cervical laminoplasty on Dec. 21, 2013, and remained hospitalized for five days. In February 2014, Ms. Medina began a course of physical therapy treatments, which were rendered twice a week for seven months. However, Ms. Medina was diagnosed with cervical kyphosis in August 2014 and required a second procedure to correct/address it. In addition, she underwent a posterior release and an anterior discectomy on Nov. 4, 2015, three years after the accident. She then remained hospitalized for one week. Ms. Medina claimed that she continues to suffer from residual range-of-motion limitations in her neck as a result of the accident. Thus, she sought recovery of $21,000 in past medical expenses, and an unspecified amount for her past and future pain and suffering. Mr. Medina claimed that he used over-the-counter medications to address pain in his neck, back and shoulders for more than three weeks before ultimately presenting to his primary care physician on Nov. 27, 2012. At that time, he was diagnosed with cervical and lumbar sprains and spasms. Mr. Medina was subsequently referred to a physical therapist, and he underwent a three-month course of conservative treatment. Mr. Medina then ceased treatment, but the pain in his neck allegedly persisted. As a result, he underwent chiropractic treatment from July 2013 to December 2013. However, he ceased treatments when his injuries reached the maximum medical improvement. Thus, Mr. Medina sought recovery of $11,000 in past medical costs, and an unspecified amount of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that Vangelis was driving less than 20 mph immediately before the accident and that the collision was minor and low-impact. Counsel also contended that the Medinas each suffered from pre-existing, natural conditions, including multilevel degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis. Thus, defense counsel argued that the Medinas’ injuries were not caused by the accident.
San Diego County Superior Court, North County, CA

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