Downtown LA Jury Awards Only $7,059 with 90% Fault on Plaintiff in a Motor Vehicle Accident with $300,000 in Medical Specials
On September 27, 2023, Scott Macdonald and Danielle Boyd secured a favorable verdict in downtown Los Angeles. The subject accident occurred in a residential street in Los Angeles. Defendant was peaking out of a residential driveway and started to make a left turn. Plaintiff was driving northbound on the residential street. Plaintiff was going over the speed limit for a residential street, honked twice when he saw Defendant, and had an impact with Defendant’s vehicle. Plaintiff did not brake or try to avoid an accident. The point of impact on Plaintiff’s vehicle was Plaintiff’s front right fender. At the scene of the accident, Plaintiff alleged that he injured his shoulder as well as his neck and cervical spine.
During expert discovery, Plaintiff counsel failed to produce their experts for expert depositions. Ms. Boyd brought a motion in limine to exclude all of Plaintiff’s experts at the time of trial which was granted. She also brought a successful motion in limine to exclude a treating physician, who was never disclosed in discovery that did a cervical spine fusion on Plaintiff the week before trial. Plaintiff counsel also attempted to call an expert as a treating physician, following defense motion and argument, the bait-and-switch doctor was excluded from testifying at trial.
Defendant disputed liability, causation, and damages. Defendant disputed the injury was anything more than a sprain/strain.
Defendant made a CCP 998 offer in the amount of $300,000 prior to trial. Plaintiff made a CCP 998 offer for $985,000 after Defendant’s offer.
At trial, Plaintiff claimed injuries to his shoulder, lumbar spine, and cervical spine. Plaintiff counsel called several treating physicians for Plaintiff, including a chiropractor, orthopedic surgeon who testified about Plaintiff’s shoulder surgery, another doctor who testified about giving dextrose injections, spine surgeon who testified about injections, EMG doctor, and Plaintiff’s brother. The treating physicians all claimed that Plaintiff’s injuries were caused the accident. Plaintiff had a recommendation for ACDF surgery which was part of Plaintiff’s neurosurgeon visit, occurring multiple years before trial.
During Plaintiff’s cross examination, Plaintiff was impeached multiple times with his inconsistent statements about the accident to the investigating officers, the hospital, and at his deposition.
Defense counsel called the investigating police offer, Defendant, an accident reconstruction/ biomechanical expert, the person most knowledgeable at Plaintiff’s employment in maintenance at a local mall, a neurosurgeon, and an orthopedic surgeon.
The defense accident reconstruction expert testified that based on his review of all file materials, the Delta V was approximately 5-7, which is a minor impact and no mechanism for injury to the lumbar spine or other part of his spine. The impact forces would have been forward and to the right, and there was no way for Plaintiff’s right shoulder to come into contact with the steering wheel. There was no documented evidence that Plaintiff injured his shoulder in the ambulance or hospital records. At most, Plaintiff could have had a minor injury to soft tissue that would resolve in 1-2 weeks with conservative treatment.
The defense neurosurgeon testimony focused on the fact that Plaintiff, at most, would have had a sprain/strain that would have resolved following a few weeks of physical therapy (4-6 weeks), with physical therapy being $100-250 per session. The neurosurgeon went over the MRI films with the jury. He kept reiterating the fact that Plaintiff went to chiropractor not physical therapy and what Plaintiff needed was physical therapy. He also highlighted the EMG was just wrong – the C4 does not control motor skills, and does not go through the trapezius like Plaintiff’s orthopedic doctor said or the deltoid like Plaintiff’s neurosurgeon said. The neurosurgeon testified to the reasonable cost of any treatment for sprain/strain. He explained that there was no change in neurologic examination at the beginning of plaintiff’s visits to providers. The neurosurgeon also testified that Plaintiff had degenerative conditions in his spine.
The orthopedic surgeon gave testimony that Plaintiff had degenerative conditions in the right shoulder, and at most, he suffered a minor sprain/strain, which would require physical therapy for approximately 3 months. He also testified that there was no traumatic event to cause Plaintiff’s shoulder injury that Plaintiff attributed to the accident. He also provided the reasonable cost for a shoulder surgery.
It came out at trial that Plaintiff still worked, played pinball, and poplocked danced. Plaintiff’s brother’s testimony did not assist Plaintiff’s change to his lifestyle. Plaintiff counsel opened the door to Plaintiff’s sobriety, which the jury learned was not true as Plaintiff had instances after the accident where he was still enjoying a non-sober lifestyle.
During the defense case, Plaintiff counsel attempted to present a witness to testify of the EDR of Defendant’s vehicle. Defendant was successful in getting the witness, who was never disclosed In discovery, from appearing at trial.
Plaintiff counsel at closing asked for $3,298,591,18 million, $3 million of which was noneconomic damages, and $298,591.18 was economic damages.
Result: After deliberating for less than an hour and a half, the jury returned the following verdict: $70,059.00 in past medical expenses, no future medical specials, no noneconomic damages, apportionment of fault was 90% on Plaintiff, and 10% on Defendant, resulting in a jury award of $7,059.00. Defendant was entitled to costs.