Downtown Los Angeles Jury Finds Knee and Spine Surgery Unrelated to Accident
November 2015, Michael Cody successfully defended a young Los Angeles City engineer who had rear-ended the plaintiff on the freeway at a fairly significant speed. Plaintiff was a 58 year old Thai immigrant who had fled Thailand during the Vietnam war and worked as a courier for a large Hollywood movie studio. Plaintiff claimed to have suffered a torn ACL in his right knee and serious injuries to his cervical and lumbar spine as a result of the accident. 10 months after the accident Plaintiff underwent right knee reconstruction surgery. 18 months after the accident, Plaintiff underwent a 2-level cervical fusion surgery.
The case had been handled by insurance company staff counsel, during which time no depositions were taken and neither party served a demand to exchange expert witnesses. Counsel for plaintiff refused to budge off the demand for the entire $1 million insurance policy. Michael was called upon to take over the case just 5 days before trial. During those 5 days, the insurance company made an offer to settle of $650,000. Counsel for plaintiff countered at $995,000.
At trial, Plaintiff presented lien-based past medical charges of $445,000. Plaintiff also present past loss of earnings of $50,000. Plaintiff’s spine surgeon testified that he would need additional future cervical spine surgery at a future cost of $250,000. Plaintiff’s knee surgeon opined he would eventually need a total knee replacement at a cost of $75,000. Plaintiff also claimed lost future earnings of in excess of $100,000. Plaintiff requested $4.5 million from the jury.
Michael argued that while the knee and neck surgery were reasonable given plaintiff’s symptoms, the need for the surgeries was not related to the accident. The defense radiologist opined that the ACL tear was more than 10 years old and not related to the accident, and that the cervical spine issues were caused by severe pre-existing degenerative conditions. Michael argued that the need for future surgery was not established to a reasonable degree of medical certainty.
The jury agreed with the defense, and did not find either surgery related to the accident. The jury also did not award any damages for future medical care. The jury returned a verdict of $408,000, less than the past medical expenses alone and far less than the pre-trial offer.