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Palm Beach County, FL

The plaintiff was a 17-year-old female who was driving a car which struck the back of a non-party vehicle. The plaintiff alleged that the collision was caused by the defendant who negligently drove through a stop sign and caused the non-party vehicle to make a sudden stop in front of the plaintiff. The defendant driver died prior to trial of unrelated causes and the case was continued against his estate. The defense contended that the plaintiff was following too closely behind the car in front of her and contributed to the accident. The court directed a verdict against the defendant on negligence, but allowed the jury to consider comparative negligence against the plaintiff.

The plaintiff called the non-party driver of the vehicle which was struck from behind by the plaintiff’s vehicle, as well as the driver of the vehicle traveling behind the plaintiff. Both of these witnesses testified that the defendant driver did not stop for the stop sign and forced the non-party driver to make a sudden stop in front of the plaintiff.

The plaintiff was transported from the scene to the hospital by ambulance. The plaintiff claimed disc herniations in both her lumbar and thoracic spine as a result of the accident. Her neurologist testified that the plaintiff exhibited a PARS defect as a child and that the PARS defect was aggravated as a result of the collision. A PARS defect, also known as spondylosis, is the presence of a bony fracture in the lower spine. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that he believed that the plaintiff suffered a thoracic disc herniation as a result of the accident. If not causally related, then the thoracic herniation was caused to become symptomatic as a result of the impact, according to the plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon.

The plaintiff also called a second orthopedic surgeon who opined that the plaintiff’s thoracic symptomatology was caused by an epidural injection given to her lumbar spine for her accident-related lumbar disc herniation. The plaintiff’s doctor contended that such injury was a known risk of an epidural injection. The plaintiff testified that she became incontinent on the day she received the epidural injection to her lumbar spine. Her doctors contended that the injection caused thecal pressure. An MRI then diagnosed the thoracic disc herniation. The plaintiff underwent a thoracic discectomy at the T10-T11 level. The plaintiff’s doctors opined that the plaintiff may require additional surgery to her lumbar spine in the future.

The plaintiff was a college student at the time of the accident. Her neurosurgeon testified, over defense objections, that the plaintiff will be unable to attain her goal of becoming a nurse as a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident. The plaintiff boarded in excess of $1 million in loss of future earnings.

The defendant argued that the impact to the back of the plaintiff’s car was light and that the only damage to the non-party vehicle, struck by the plaintiff’s car, was a blemish. The defendant contended that the $________ damage estimate to the front of the plaintiff’s car was for cosmetic damage only. The defendant’s accident reconstruction expert testified that the force sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the rear end impact was less than a four-mile Delta V force. Delta V force refers to change of velocity of vehicles in a rear end collision. The defendant’s biomechanical expert opined that the Delta V force involved in the subject collision was similar to the forces encountered when walking.

The defendant’s orthopedic surgeon opined that the plaintiff did not exhibit a lumbar disc herniation. He testified that the plaintiff’s thoracic disc herniation, for which surgery was performed, preexisted the date of the accident. The defense stressed that the plaintiff’s medical records indicated a prior history of back pain. Defense medical experts contended that the plaintiff’s prior complaints indicated primary back pain. The defendant’s radiologist opined that the plaintiff exhibited a preexisting thoracic disc abnormality before the date of the accident, based on CAT scans taken when she went to the hospital with abdominal complaints.

To counter defense assertions, the plaintiff called her pediatrician and one of the emergency room doctors to whom she had previously complained of prior abdominal pain radiating to the back. Both of these treating doctors testified that the symptoms in the plaintiff’s back radiated from the abdomen and were not associated with a back problem.The jury found the defendant 60% negligent and the plaintiff 40% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $________ in damages, reduced accordingly. The court denied defendant’s motion to reduce the past medical bills to the amount which the health insurance carrier paid, agreeing with the plaintiff that the past and future medicals were undifferentiated and that under the two issue rule (which combines past and future damages on the verdict form), a set-off could not be made. The case is currently on appeal.

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