Case details

Truck towing SUV was too slow on highway, defense claimed





Result type

Not present

back, bulging disc, fusion, lumbar
On July 29, 2014, plaintiff Francisco Perez, 57, unemployed, was towing a sport utility vehicle with a pickup truck that he was driving on southbound Interstate 15, in San Bernardino County. His minor daughter, plaintiff Laura Perez, was asleep in the front seat. As a tractor-trailer operated by Mihail Ilies attempted to change lanes, it rear-ended Perez’s vehicle. Perez claimed to his back. Perez, acting individually and on behalf of Laura, sued Ilies and Ilies’ employer, Con-Mold Corp. Perez alleged that Ilies was negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer and that Con-Mold was vicariously liable for Ilies’ actions. Laura ultimately dismissed her complaint. Defense counsel contended that Perez was driving at 20 mph on the freeway with no hazard or warning lights illuminated on the towed vehicle and that Perez was traveling at a speed much slower than traffic conditions. Counsel argued that Perez violated California Vehicle Code § 22400, which states, “No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with the law.” Counsel also argued that Perez violated § 24604, which states, “Whenever the load upon any vehicle extends, or whenever an integral part of any vehicle projects, to the rear for feet or more beyond the rear of the vehicle, as measured from the tail lamps, there shall be displayed at the extreme end of the load or projecting part of the vehicle during darkness, in addition to the required tail lamp, two red lights with a bulb rated not in excess of six candlepower plainly visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the sides and rear. At any other time there shall be displayed at the extreme end of the load or projecting part of the vehicle a solid red or fluorescent orange flag or cloth not less than 18 inches square.” (The jury was instructed on each of those Vehicle Code sections.) Plaintiff’s counsel admitted Perez that was 10 percent comparatively at fault. However, defense counsel argued that Perez was 100 percent at fault for the accident., Perez claimed he sustained a bulging lumbar disc at the L5-S1 level, which required two surgeries. He first underwent a lumbar fusion at the L5-S1 level on May 11, 2015, and then a removal of screws and instrumentation on April 4, 2018. Perez claimed he would need a third surgery in the future, an anterior lumbar interbody fusion at L3-4 and L4-5 with anterior internal fixation at L3-4-5. Perez sought recovery of $279,040 in past medical costs and $304,862.05 in future medical costs, if he has the third surgery done in Salt Lake City, or $468,069.51 in future medical costs, if he has the surgery done in Los Angeles. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Perez initially sought recovery of $1.5 million in past lost earnings and $2 million in future lost earnings, but Perez was unemployed in the year leading up to the collision, so the court excluded any claim of lost earnings. As a result, no evidence regarding employment or earnings was presented at trial. Defense counsel disputed the nature and extent of Perez’s alleged and damages. Counsel argued that Perez was not injured in the crash and that the surgeries were unrelated to the accident. Counsel also argued Perez’s medical bills were unreasonable and not related to the accident. Defense counsel noted that Perez did not make any injury complaints at the scene or request any emergency medical response. Counsel also noted that Perez testified that the impact was so minor that Laura did not cry or even wake up from the impact and that Laura was not injured. In addition, defense counsel noted that Perez testified that the seat belt restrained him and that he did not move forward or backward. Defense counsel contended that after the accident, Perez drove back home to Utah and did not seek treatment until one week later, when, at the referral of his attorney, he presented to his treating chiropractor. Counsel also noted that throughout treatment with the chiropractor, Perez rated his pain as being a two out of 10 and that the plaintiff’s treating chiropractor told the jury that a two out of 10 equates to “happy” and “let’s have a party!” In addition, defense counsel noted that Perez drove himself from Utah, where he resided, to Los Angeles for all of his attorney-referred treatments. Defense counsel contended that Perez never reported any radicular pain or symptoms of numbness and tingling throughout all of his medical treatment and that all orthopedic and neurological exams were consistently normal. Counsel added that Perez’s treating chiropractor admitted that Perez consistently improved on every visit. The defense’s neuroradiology expert opined that there was no instability in Perez’s lumbar spine and that if there was instability, it was not caused by the accident. The expert also opined that nothing in any of Perez’s MRIs, CT scans and X-Rays was caused by the accident and that Perez had longstanding, degenerative changes in the lumbar spine that was not made worse by the accident. In addition, the expert showed the jury that the L5-S1 level was hypomobile, that there was no movement in the discs, and that the discs lined up perfectly. The defense’s billing expert testified that Perez was over-treated and overcharged. Defense counsel asked the jury to award Perez only $8,000, if anything.
Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA

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