Case details

Rear-end crash caused cervical injuries, plaintiff driver claimed





Result type

Not present

bulging disc, cervical, neck
On Sept. 22, 2005, plaintiff Alison Ciontea Littlejohn, 24, a homemaker, was driving on westbound Interstate 10 in Fontana, accompanied by her infant daughter, plaintiff Kaiulani Littlejohn, who was in a child restraint sear in the back. At approximately 1:30 p.m., traffic had unexpectedly slowed due to the presence of a caravan of ambulances on eastbound Interstate 10. As a result, William Stead, who was operating a sport utility vehicle two cars behind Littlejohn, rear-ended the mid-size SUV in front of him. That vehicle, which was operated by Gul Advani, then veered to the left, causing Stead to then strike Littlejohn’s vehicle. Littlejohn claimed to her neck and back from the crash. Littlejohn, on behalf of herself and Kaiulani, sued Stead and Advani. She alleged that the defendants were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles. Prior to trial, Advani was dismissed from the case and Kaiulani’s claims were settled for $5,000. Stead claimed that he momentarily looked to his right to change lanes, but did not have room to do so. He alleged that when he looked forward, he saw that traffic had slowed and applied his brakes, but was unable to avoid striking Advani’s SUV. Stead admitted that he then struck Littlejohn’s vehicle after Advani’s vehicle veered to the left. Thus, Stead admitted liability for the accident, and the matter proceeded to a trial on causation and damages between Littlejohn and Stead only., Littlejohn was taken from the scene of the accident by ambulance and brought to an emergency room with complaints of neck and back pain. She was ultimately treated and released, and then followed up with a few months of physical therapy. Littlejohn further treated with pain management, epidural injections and a discogram. She also underwent three MRIs and CAT scans over five years, which revealed modest cervical disc bulging at C4-5 and C5-6. Littlejohn claimed she developed severe, incessant migraine headaches over time. As a result, on March 18, 2010, she underwent a two-level anterior cervical discectomy with prosthetic disc inserts at C4-5 and C5-6, which she claimed mostly resolved her symptoms. Littlejohn claimed she was mostly immobile during her recovery, but that she is 80 percent healed from her . However, she alleged that she still has some limitations. Thus, Littlejohn claimed $250,000 in past medical costs and sought $5,000 in future medical costs to annually monitor her condition. She also sought recovery of damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Stead’s counsel argued that neither the subject accident nor another rear-ender Littlejohn was involved in on March 11, 2005, caused any anatomical damage to her cervical spine. Counsel contended that MRIs revealed only some mild degenerative changes at multiple levels, but that they are consistent with someone the plaintiff’s age. Counsel also contended that the MRIs never noted any signs of trauma to the cervical spine, and that the discogram results were flawed and unreliable. Defense counsel contended that there was a disputed annular fissure at C5-6 seen during the first MRI, but not during the subsequent ones or during the discogram. Thus, counsel argued that Littlejohn sustained a musculoskeletal sprain/strain that continued to present symptoms for up to two years, which was aggravated by her lifestyle, moving around for her husband’s education and jobs, and her second pregnancy. In addition, defense counsel disputed the need for any surgery, especially as related to the subject accident.
Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA

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