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DEFENDANT’S Motor Vehicle Negligence – Governmental liability – Auto/police vehicle rear end collision – Cervical disc herniation claimed – Damages/causation only.

Palm Beach County, FL

The plaintiff brought this action against the Sheriff of Palm Beach County after a police vehicle, operated by one of the defendant’s deputies, struck the plaintiff’s car from behind. The defendant stipulated to negligence in causing the collision. Accordingly, the case was tried on the issues of damages and causation only.

The plaintiff was a female in her early 50’s at the time of the collision. She testified that she was attempting to make a right turn on a red light, when the rear end collision occurred. The plaintiff went from the scene of the accident to a chiropractor with whom she had previously treated. The plaintiff complained of neck pain and was ultimately diagnosed with a cervical disc herniation, which she claimed was caused by the accident. The plaintiff was treated conservatively without surgery. The defendant argued that the impact was minimal as depicted by photographs showing only a scratch to the back of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The defendant’s orthopedic surgeon testified that he looked at the plaintiff’s diagnostic films and determined that her cervical condition was long-standing and preexisted the date of the collision. The plaintiff had been treated for prior neck pain, but did not have an MRI taken until after the date of the subject collision.

The defendant’s orthopedic surgeon also opined that the plaintiff will not require future medical treatment for her neck condition.The jury found that the defendant’s negligence was not a legal cause of damage to the plaintiff.

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