Case details

Vehicle caused injuries when it struck cart, shopper alleged





Result type

Not present

ankle, anxiety, back, herniated disc, mental, psychological, sprain, strain
On Sept. 25, 2009, plaintiff Yelena Orel, 37, a chiropractor, was shopping at a Vons grocery store on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana. At approximately 1 p.m., while she was standing with her shopping cart in the store’s parking lot, a vehicle operated by Miriam Fine, who was backing out of a parking space, impacted the cart. Orel, who was 14 weeks pregnant at the time, claimed the cart impacted her abdomen, and also caused to her lower back and left ankle. Orel sued Fine. She alleged the defendant was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. She also sued for punitive damages, alleging that Fine left the scene of the accident and acted with extreme malice, constituting intentional infliction of emotional distress. Orel claimed that Fine was inattentive while reversing out of the parking space and failed to notice her standing with the shopping cart. She also claimed that Fine exited her vehicle to check the bumper, yelled at her and then fled the scene. An eyewitness who was at the scene testified that he saw the cart get struck, but could not tell if the plaintiff’s abdomen was impacted. Fine contested the severity of the impact, arguing that it was of very minimal force, and claimed that the cart did not strike Orel’s abdomen. She further claimed that after the impact, she got out of her car to check what happened, and that Orel did not complain of any injury, indicate she was pregnant, ask for aid or attempt to exchange any insurance information. However, Fine admitted to negligently backing out, but argued that Orel was comparatively at fault for the incident. In addition, defense counsel argued that Orel’s eyewitness could not corroborate the plaintiff’s account of the accident, since he did not claim to see her abdomen struck by the cart., Orel returned to work at her chiropractic office after the accident, but claimed that she didn’t feel right. As a result, she went to her OB-GYN doctor the same day and was examined, which revealed no tenderness or bruising and a normal ultrasound. Orel claimed she had abdominal pain for a month, but also had high blood pressure and severe anxiety throughout the remainder of her pregnancy. After giving birth to a healthy baby boy, Orel treated for a lower back pain, which she claimed she sustained during the accident. She underwent an MRI of her lower back, which she claimed revealed lumbar disc herniations at L1-2 and L4-5. She also claimed the accident caused or aggravated a Tarlov cyst at S1-2. She allegedly self-treated with chiropractic care, underwent an EMG nerve conduction study and, in January 2012, underwent one series of epidural injections to her lower back. Orel claimed she still has residual lower back pain radiating down to her right leg. She alleged that she is now fearful of shopping in public places and is restricted from lifting large objects. Orel claimed approximately $32,000 in damages for her past medical costs and roughly $30,000 in damages for her future medical costs for additional epidural injections and a potential for back surgery. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Orel $567,000 in total economic and noneconomic damages, as well as an unspecified amount for punitive damages. Defense counsel disputed all of Orel’s . She argued that Orel did not injure her abdomen or experience pregnancy complications, and that her subsequent, post-pregnancy orthopedic were unrelated to the accident. Defense counsel also argued that the plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof on damages and that, if anything, Orel’s treatment should be reduced to her one OB-GYN visit on the date of loss.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys, CA

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