Case details

Unsafe lane change caused crash, motorcyclist claimed





Result type

Not present

anterior cruciate ligament, bilateral compression median nerve, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, damage elbow, elbow, elbow's medial epicondyle, fracture, knee, knees, left knee's lateral tibial plateau, medial collateral ligament, medial meniscus, nerve, neurological, patellar, posterior cruciate ligament, right wrist's carpal tunnel, shoulder, tear, tibial plateau, ulnar compression, wrist
On April 29, 2014, at approximately 5:40 p.m., plaintiff Stephen Nicholson Jr., 42, a certified truck mechanic, was operating a 2003 Kawasaki motorcycle in or near the extreme left (“number one”) lane on the northbound side of the Golden State Freeway, also known as Interstate 5, near the Los Angeles River, in Los Angeles. When a Lexus driven by Zea Borok attempted to enter the number one lane from the number two lane, Nicholson swerved to the left and slammed on his brakes. Nicholson was thrown onto the pavement, as his motorcycle flipped into the air and landed on top of him. Nicholson sued Borok, alleging that Borok was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Nicholson claimed that prior to the accident, his motorcycle was positioned toward the left side of the number one lane, near the center median of the highway, while another motorcyclist, who was traveling about 40 feet ahead of him in the number one lane, was positioned toward the right side of the lane, near the painted line. He alleged that Borok’s Lexus suddenly entered the number one lane from the number two lane, without warning, causing him to swerve to the left and slam on his brakes while the other motorcyclist swerved to the right to avoid the Lexus. Thus, Nicholson claimed that Borok was to blame for the accident. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Brook was inattentive and failed to maintain a proper lookout before she changed lanes. Counsel also contended that Borok made an unsafe lane change by failing to turn on her directional signal, and by failing to look in her rear- and side-view mirrors before she changed lanes, in violation of numerous state vehicle codes. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert opined that Borok violated California vehicle code §§§ 21658, 22107 and 22108, which stipulate general safety requirements for motorists before changing lanes and using turn signals. He also opined that Borok’s unsafe lane change caused the accident. Defense counsel argued that Nicholson was lane splitting, driving at an excessive rate of speed, and following a vehicle too closely. Counsel also argued that Nicholson was inattentive, in that Nicholson failed to observe Borok’s vehicle as it began to change lanes. Thus, defense counsel argued that Nicholson was responsible for the accident. The defendant’s accident reconstruction expert opined that Nicholson was reckless in his operation of the motorcycle and that Nicholson failed to maintain a safe distance between his motorcycle and the other motorists. He also testified that Nicholson violated several California vehicle code safety standards that prohibit unsafe lane splitting., Nicholson claimed he suffered partial tears of the posterior cruciate ligaments with thinning of the anterior cruciate ligaments in both the left and right knees, tears of the posterior horns of the medial menisci with narrowing of the anterior horns of the medial menisci in both knees, slight joint effusion in both knees, and a fracture of the left knee’s lateral tibial plateau. He also claimed he suffered bilateral compression of the median nerve at or near the right wrist’s carpal tunnel and ulnar compression at or near the right elbow’s medial epicondyle, resulting in cubital tunnel syndrome. In addition, he claimed he suffered an impingement of the right shoulder. Following the crash, Nicholson was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Department at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center, in Los Angeles, where he underwent X-rays, received minor treatment, and was given pain medication. He was then released from the hospital later that night. Nicholson claimed that he tried to return to his normal activities of daily living without treatment, but ultimately sought medical attention four months after the accident. In September 2014, Nicholson presented to an orthopedic surgeon with complaints of chronic pain and swelling that stemmed from his right elbow, right shoulder, and both knees. He also reported a clicking sensation in his right knee. Nicholson subsequently underwent MRIs, an ultrasound of his elbow, EMG testing, and nerve conduction studies. The September 2014 MRI of his left knee revealed thinning of the anterior cruciate ligament, a partial tear of the left posterior cruciate ligament, a Grade III tear of the posterior horn of the medial meniscus, narrowing of the anterior horn of the medial meniscus, a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau, and slight joint effusion. An MRI of the right knee revealed thinning of the anterior cruciate ligament, a partial tear of the right posterior cruciate ligament, a Grade II tear of the posterior horn of the right medial meniscus, a Grade II signal in the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus, a Grade III tear of the anterior horn of the medial meniscus, and slight joint effusion. Nicholson was also diagnosed with bilateral compression of the right median nerve at or near the carpal tunnel and ulnar compression at or near the medial epicondyle in November 2014. More than 12 months after the accident, Nicholson underwent a right shoulder MRI, which revealed acromioclavicular degeneration and tendinopathy of the rotator cuff. He was subsequently diagnosed with shoulder impingement syndrome and compression of the right ulnar nerve. Nicholson’s treating orthopedic surgeon, as well as another orthopedic surgeon whom he visited to obtain a second opinion, recommended surgery on the left knee. On June 25, 2015, Nicholson underwent an arthroscopic procedure that addressed the of his left knee. However, during the course of post-operative physical therapy, he reinjured his knee, suffering partial tears of his medial collateral ligament and patella tendon. As a result, Nicholson underwent a second arthroscopy of his left knee on July 30, 2015. On Sept. 25, 2015, Nicholson underwent an arthroscopic subacromial decompression surgery on his right shoulder and surgical decompression of his right elbow and ulnar nerve with medial epicondylectomy and plastic closure. He also received physical therapy for two months after the surgery. Nicholson claimed that despite treatment, he continued to experience pain with the use of his left knee. He subsequently underwent a post-operative MRI, which revealed a re-tearing of the medial meniscus ligament, requiring an arthroscopic repair that was performed on Nov. 20, 2015. He then underwent eight weeks of physical therapy treatment following the knee surgery. On Jan. 22, 2016, Nicholson underwent an arthroscopic surgery to address the damaged ligaments in his right knee. Nicholson ultimately underwent a scheduled total left knee replacement surgery on March 9, 2016. The procedure was performed at Miracle Mile Medical Center, in Los Angeles, where he was admitted for a period of five days. However, Nicholson claimed that he continued to experience a limited range of motion in his left knee after the full knee replacement surgery. He also claimed he will require additional surgeries in the future and that he was being prepared to undergo manipulation under anesthesia in order to increase the flexion and extension in his left knee. Nicholson claimed that as a result of his , he was unable to return to work as a certified truck mechanic for four months, resulting in a loss of wages and bonuses totaling $16,643. However, one month after obtaining a higher-paying position with another employer, Nicholson was placed on disability on May 25, 2015. In January 2016, Nicholson was allegedly asked to work for an ambulatory services provider at an annual salary of $104,000, but he claimed he had to decline the offer due to his . Nicholson claimed that as a result, he was owed $16,643 in past lost earnings for the four months he missed work from April 30, 2014 to Aug. 24, 2014. He also claimed that as of May 24, 2016, he suffered an additional loss of past earnings totaling between $73,000 and $92,373, based on a potential hourly wage of $31 or $50, respectively. In addition, based on projections from the California Employment Development Department, Nicholson claimed that if he could never return to work, he would incur a future loss of earnings that ranged from $856,146 to $1,380,881 and that his future loss of earnings would be between $356,968 and $881,703, should he return to work in a light-duty capacity. Thus, Nicholson sought recovery of $1,934,903.63 in total damages, including $396,243.63 for past medical expenses, $269,000 for future medical expenses, $99,386 for past lost earnings, and $1,170,274 for future lost earnings. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that Nicholson’s shoulder and wrist surgeries were unnecessary, and could have been resolved with a conservative course of treatment. The defense’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that Nicholson was exaggerating the extent of his , and disputed the permanency of those . He also opined that Nicholson did not require a total knee replacement and would not need any additional surgery in connection with the accident. In addition, the expert opined that the cost Nicholson’s future medical care would be less than half the amount he projected.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case