Case details

Truck driver denied rear-ending plaintiff’s vehicle





Result type

Not present

back, cervical, fusion, lower back, lumbar neck, neck
On Jan. 26, 2012, plaintiff Robert Sutton, a disabled man in his 60s, was traveling on North Rose Avenue, in Oxnard, when he his vehicle was allegedly rear-ended by a tractor-trailer operated by Abraham Chapman near the intersection with the 101 Freeway. Sutton claimed the force of the impact caused his vehicle to spin clockwise and end up facing backward on a curb near the roadway. He claimed the impact caused to his neck and back. Sutton sued Chapman and the owners of the tractor-trailer Western Distributing Transportation Corp. Inc. and Western Distributing Co., which were also Chapman’s employers. Sutton alleged that Chapman was negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer and that Western Distributing Transportation Corp. and Western Distributing Co. were vicariously liable for Chapman’s actions. Sutton claimed he intended to go straight through the intersection when he was rear-ended by Chapman’s tractor-trailer, causing his vehicle to spin around. Chapman denied the accident ever occurred. Defense counsel presented photographs taken after the accident, which allegedly showed no damaged to the rear of Sutton’s vehicle except for white marks on the right, rear corner. Counsel also noted that Chapman’s tractor and trailer were both blue. Defense counsel also contended that due to Sutton was taking a number of medications for significant pre-existing and that Sutton had a history of losing consciousness. Counsel noted that Sutton even admitted that six months before the subject accident, he lost consciousness and struck the sidewalk with his face, causing a cut on his forehead that required 17 stitches. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert opined that Sutton’s vehicle drifted to the right, possibly due to the impact his medications had on him, and that this caused Sutton’s right, rear tire to strike the curb, which caused Sutton’s vehicle to spin clockwise and strike the right side of Chapman’s trailer., Sutton claimed that the subject accident exacerbated his prior neck and back . Prior to the subject accident, Sutton had a two level lumbar fusion at the L5-S1 level and a laminectomy on his neck at the C2-3, C3-4, C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7 levels. Sutton, who previously worked as a salesman and had a Master’s degree in computer science, subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim in 1999, which was still pending at the time of the subject accident. He was also still undergoing treatment for his previous and had a previously scheduled physical therapy appointment on the date of the subject accident. Upon arriving for physical therapy, he complained of neck pain and was sent home. Sutton then returned for medical care a few days later. Five months after the accident, Sutton complained of back pain, and an MRI was taken of his back. He then underwent physical therapy and received epidural injections of steroid-based painkiller to his neck and back in 2012. Sutton ultimately underwent a bilateral L2-3 facet rhizotomy in 2013, a cervical fusion in 2014, and a lumbar fusion at the L3-4 level in 2014. The plaintiff’s treating pain management specialist, who had been treating Sutton since 2003, opined that the September 2012 accident exacerbated Sutton’s neck and back . Thus, Sutton claimed that he will require additional neck and back surgeries as a result of the subject accident. Defense counsel contended that Sutton already had neck and back surgeries a decade before the subject accident and that the to his neck and L3-4 were a natural progression of those prior and not due to the subject accident. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that Sutton suffered from degenerative disc disease, as noted by the physician who performed Sutton’s 2014 neck and back surgeries in his subsequent reports. The defense’s medical expert also opined that because Sutton’s spine at the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels had been fused, it placed more stress on the levels above, i.e. the L3-4 level, requiring the subsequent fusion surgery. In addition, the expert noted that the MRI of Sutton’s neck was compared to an MRI of Sutton’s neck taken three months before the subject accident and that he found that there was no difference.
Superior Court of Ventura County, Ventura, CA

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