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Orange County, California

This action arose out of a two-vehicle intersection accident in which the male plaintiff auto operator, in his mid-50s at the time, suffered severe injuries. The plaintiffs brought suit against the driver of the pick-up truck, who allegedly caused the collision by failing to yield the right-of-way to the plaintiff.

A medical malpractice claim was additionally asserted against the hospital where the plaintiff underwent treatment for his accident-related injuries, alleging that the plaintiff received substandard care resulting in further injury.

The subject accident occurred on November 13, ________, at the intersection of Ball Road and Moody in Cypress, California. A "Bob-tail" delivery truck operated by the defendant turned left in front of the plaintiff’s Daihatsu Charade, allegedly violating his right-of-way. The plaintiff was unable to stop his vehicle in time and a broadside collision ensued. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant delivery truck driver was negligent in failing to yield the right-of-way. At the time of the subject accident, the defendant delivery truck driver was operating his vehicle on behalf of the defendant Merchants Home Delivery, in the capacity of independent contractor.

The plaintiff was transported from the accident scene to UCI Medical Center, which is operated by the defendants, The Regents of the University of California ("Regents"). The evidence established that the emergency room physician under whose care the plaintiff was placed, ordered a series of diagnostic images, including a CT scan of the cervical spine. While in the emergency room, it was determined that the plaintiff had suffered a tear in his aorta. Prior to commencing surgery to repair the aortic tear, the results of the various diagnostic studies were obtained and the plaintiff was "cleared" for surgery. Thereafter, the plaintiff underwent thoracic surgery to correct the aortic injury. The plaintiff was sent to the ICU to recuperate.

The following morning (November 14, ________), however, it was discovered that the plaintiff had lost all sensation below the neck. The earlier cervical films were closely examined at which time it was determined that the plaintiff had suffered a fractured at the C5-C6 level of the spine. This injury was missed when the CT scans were read the day prior. Subsequently, the plaintiff underwent a cervical fusion. The plaintiff has never regained function below the neck and is permanently paralyzed at C4-5.

As against the defendant pick-up truck operator, the plaintiff alleged negligence in executing an unsafe left turn in front of the plaintiff’s right-of-way. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant Merchant’s Home Delivery was vicariously liable for the negligence of its driver, based upon California PIC regulations.

The plaintiff further asserted that the co-defendants committed medical malpractice in failing to identify the cervical fracture during the initial CT scan and in failing to treat the fracture promptly upon the plaintiff’s admission to the hospital. The plaintiff maintained that the medical resident assigned to the plaintiff’s care, was not given proper training and back-up support relative to his care and treatment of the plaintiff.

The medical defendants denied negligence, maintaining that the failure to diagnose the cervical fracture under the emergency conditions with which they were faced, did not constitute a deviation from the standard of care. The medical defendants further contended that no additional damage was done to plaintiff due to the fact that the neck injury and resulting spinal injury had been sustained during the motor vehicle accident and was irreversible. The defendants asserted that all appropriate precautions had been taken throughout the course of the plaintiff’s treatment.

The motor vehicle defendants (driver and corporation) contended that the plaintiff was substantially comparatively negligent for entering the intersection under unsafe conditions and at an unsafe speed, as illustrated by the fact that the vehicle adjacent to the plaintiff failed to stop and yield. The defendants further contended that the plaintiff was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident, which they maintained was the sole cause of the aortic tear and the cervical fracture.

According the defendants, had the plaintiff fastened his seat belt, he would have sustained only minor injuries.

The plaintiff and his wife have been married since ________. They have one adult son. Since the plaintiff’s injury, the plaintiff wife has given up her own employment and now functions as the plaintiff’s full-time caregiver. The plaintiffs’ economist estimated past and future loss of income as $________.

On the issue of damages, the defendants argued that the plaintiff’s life span was dramatically shortened by the injuries sustained. The defendants offered medical testimony estimating the plaintiff’s life expectancy to be ten years or less. The defendants argued, therefore, that the amount of economic loss sustained was lower than the plaintiff’s estimates, which were based upon a 12 to 18 year future life span. The defendants’ economist estimated past and future loss of income as between $________ and $________.

The action settled at the end of jury selection and on the eve of opening statements. As to the medical defendants: the parties agreed to a settlement "package" with a present cash value of no less than $________, consisting of $________ based upon an annuity payment of $________ per annum to the plaintiff for life, increasing 3% annually, based upon a projected life span; $________ immediate cash payment to plaintiffs; $________ waiver of medical bills incurred at the UCI medical center; $________ to medical lien holders; $________ in advances paid to plaintiffs during course of litigation. As to the automobile defendants, settlement in the amount of $________ was reached, consisting of $________ cash payment plus an exemplar truck with an estimated resale value of at least $________. The action settled at the end of jury selection, and on the eve of opening statements. The final settlement totaled $________ (present cash value).

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