Case details

Teen struck by vehicle claimed traumatic brain injury





Result type

Not present

brain, brain damage, cognition, contusion, depression, emotional distress, head, laceration, mental, psychological, right hip, sensory, speech, traumatic brain injury, vestibular deficits
On March 13, 2013, at around 10:40 a.m., plaintiff Javier Perez, 16, was allegedly walking west on Sunset Boulevard when he attempted to cross Marion Avenue, in Echo Park, Los Angeles. The intersection had a green light, which permitted the teen to enter the crosswalk. He made it in the middle of the crosswalk (still in the northbound lane), about 24 feet from the curb, when he was struck on his right side by a Honda Element operated by Caleb Sunde, who was attempting to turn left from westbound Sunset Boulevard onto southbound Marion Avenue. The impact threw Javier onto the hood of the vehicle before landing on the ground. He claimed that he suffered a traumatic brain injury. Javier, acting through his guardian ad litem, Irene Rojas, sued Sunde, alleging that he was negligent in the operation of the sport utility vehicle. Javier’s accident reconstruction expert provided an animated recreation of the accident, pinpointing Javier’s relative position to the car and when Javier was struck. The expert concluded that Javier had been walking in a crosswalk on a green light for six seconds when Sunde made an improper turn by cutting the corner too sharp, causing Sunde to strike the teen in the northbound lane. Sunde’s counsel noted that there were no witnesses to the accident and that Javier has no recollection of the incident. Counsel also maintained that Javier ran into Sunde’s vehicle while riding his skateboard. In response, Javier’s counsel disputed that the teen was on his skateboard, and argued that Javier was holding it by his right side at the time of impact. His counsel also provided photographs of the dented hood of the Honda Element and cited medical records that documented that Javier suffered a contusion to the right hip due to the vehicle hitting the skateboard., Javier was rendered unconscious at the scene, but regained consciousness about 10 minutes later while in the ambulance on his way to a hospital. He subsequently underwent a CT scan of his head and body, and was diagnosed with a small punctate hyperdensity in the left frontal lobe, which indicated a small intraparenchymal hemorrhage. He was also diagnosed with a laceration to the back of the head and a right-hip contusion. Three staples were administered to treat the head laceration. Javier was also observed overnight and released the next day without any follow-up instructions. Javier stayed home for a week and then went back to school. However, in the ensuing weeks, he went to his pediatrician four or five times, and often complained of dizziness. Five months after the accident, Javier’s pediatrician ordered a CT scan, which was negative. In November 2013, Javier returned to his doctor with depression, moodiness, and anger issues; the pediatrician did not refer him out to a specialist. The following month, Javier, at the referral of his attorney, presented to a neurologist, who ordered a T3 MRI and other imaging studies. The imaging showed hemorrhaging in the left frontal lobe, left parietal lobe, left temporal lobe, left cerebellum, and right temporal lobe. Javier was sent to a neuropsychologist and a neuropsychiatrist for evaluation. Neuropsychological testing was allegedly consistent with primarily left brain damage (with clear bilateral demarcation), and the physicians concluded that the teen suffered from a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, resulting in a mild neurocognitive disorder and a personality change. In the ensuing years, Javier continued to see the neuro-physicians. Prior to the accident, Javier had been a D/F student, at best, having failed most of his classes in high school and was looking to go to continuation school. After the accident, he moved on to continuation school, and dropped out after two years. In August 2016, Javier began treating at a brain-injury and neurobehavioral rehabilitation facility, where he underwent occupational and physical therapy, cognitive rehabilitation, education therapy, counseling, and received psychotropic medication. He is expected to continue treatment through the beginning of 2017, at which time he will be re-evaluated, and provided with a life-care plan and a life-skills specialist to provide support for him and his family. The plaintiff’s neurologist, neuropsychiatrist, and neuropsychologist causally related Javier’s and treatment to the accident. According to the physicians, following cognitive rehabilitation, Javier will be monitored by a case manager and a life-skills specialist to oversee his care and educate his family. Javier is expected to live with his family until he is 30, at which time he will transition into an apartment complex owned by a rehabilitation facility, which will be a prosthetic environment staffed by individuals to provide guidance. His physicians testified that by the time Javier is 55, he will begin to experience early dementia and require more comprehensive care. According to Javier’s counsel, the teen will be able to work, but due to Javier’s personality and neurocognitive disorders, he can only work at a reduced function. Javier testified that, when he is not treating, his days consist of staying at home and watching television. He claimed that he is afraid to go out and be around people in open spaces. There have been incidents in which Javier, who has issues with people staring at him, has gotten into physical confrontations with people on the street. As a result, his relationship with his family has completely deteriorated, he alleged. This was supported by his mother and brother, who discussed how Javier went from an outgoing, life-of-the-party, energetic class clown to a recluse, who is afraid of everyone. Thus, Javier sought recovery of about $120,000 in past medical costs; $16,112,553 in future medical costs, based on the life care plan generated by his physicians; and $288,906 in future lost earnings. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. The defense’s experts in forensic psychiatry and neuropsychology, who both tested and examined Javier, concluded that Javier had no long-lasting consequences from what the experts considered as a mild traumatic brain injury. They also opined that any cognitive issues Javier suffered were the result of a pre-existing, non-diagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and pointed to incidents in which Javier had been, at times, disruptive in class, prior to the accident.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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