Case details

Rear-ender caused cervical and lumbar injuries, plaintiff claimed





Result type

Not present

back, herniated disc, neck
On Nov. 17, 2008, plaintiff Hector Zuniga, 53, an auto body painter, was driving his sedan in Pleasanton when his vehicle was struck from behind by a truck driven by Carl Doty, who was in the course of his employment with Carroll Fulmer Logistics, a Florida-based corporation. Zuniga claimed back and neck from the cash. Zuniga sued Doty and Carroll Fulmer Logistics. He alleged that Doty was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Carroll Fulmer Logistics was vicariously liable for his actions. Specifically, Zuniga claimed that Doty quickly changed lanes, striking the rear left corner of his vehicle while traveling at a high rate of speed (roughly 20 mph faster than the speed limit). He also claimed that the impact lifted his vehicle off the road, before landing and skidding on the highway. Doty defaulted at trial. Carroll Fulmer Logistics conceded liability, and the case proceeded to trial on causation and damages., Zuniga did not go to an emergency room, but presented to his primary care doctor the next day. Zuniga claimed he suffered herniated cervical and lumbar discs at the C6-7 and L5-S1 levels. He tried conservative care, but he stated that it offered him no relief. Thus, on March 22, 2010, he underwent a three- level arthroplasty, a procedure which included the replacement of prosthetic discs. Zuniga was subsequently hospitalized for two days for the surgery.He was then released from the hospital, and underwent physical therapy and pain management, which he stated offered him no relief. Despite treatment, Zuniga claimed that he still suffers daily pain. He alleged that his pain interrupts his sleep, causing him to awaken at least twice a night, and that he needs to take pain medication, which renders him lethargic. Testimony was offered from witnesses, including the plaintiff’s best friend and wife, who testified about the change in Zuniga after the accident. They claimed that Zuniga, who once enjoyed automotive work and tending the yard, now sits around his home in a specially purchased chair, watching television. In addition, Zuniga claimed that his pain level was described as a 4 or 5 out of 10 with pain medication, and a 7 or 8 out of 10 without pain medication. Zuniga claimed numerous physical restrictions, including not being able to lift more than 15 pounds and having difficulty with repetitive tasks. He also claimed that his loss of range of motion caused tasks, such as bending, to become more difficult. As a result, Zuniga alleged that he had to quit his job as an auto body painter, where he was earning approximately $50,000 annually. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified about the severity and impact of the accident, noting the over 10,000-pound weight disparity between the vehicles. The expert also testified that the impact lifted Zuniga’s vehicle off the ground before smashing it into the road. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that although no future surgeries are planned, Zuniga has likely reached his maximum level of improvement and will be plagued by pain for the rest of his life. Thus, counsel asked the jury to award Zuniga $10 million in total damages. Defense counsel noted that Zuniga had been involved in prior automobile accidents in 1998 from which he suffered a back injury and received treatment, including pain killing injections. Thus, counsel argued that Zuniga was suffering from pre-existing and degenerative conditions. Counsel further argued that any new sustained were merely sprains and strains. In addition, defense counsel contended that Zuniga’s age and strenuous occupation could have caused his back .
Superior Court of Alameda County, Oakland, CA

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