The California Court of Appeal recently affirmed a jury award in a personal injury claim against a negligent truck driver and his employer. In this recent case, the plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant, who was operating a vehicle in the course of his employment. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendants for the back injuries he sustained in the collision. Although the defendants admitted that they were responsible for the collision, they disputed the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and the amount of his damages. Following a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff over $2 million in damages. The defendants appealed, contending that the trial court erred in excluding expert testimony from their witness and that there was insufficient evidence to support the $200,000 award for future medical costs.
In the case, the plaintiff stopped on the road to allow another vehicle to make a turn. The defendant failed to use his brakes and rear-ended him at a speed of approximately 10 to 30 miles per hour, causing the plaintiff’s car to lurch forward 5-10 feet. The plaintiff experienced major back pain and went to the emergency room later that night. For the next several years, the plaintiff sought treatment for his neck and back pain. At trial, the plaintiff presented expert testimony from his doctors that his preexisting degenerative disc disease was exacerbated by the motor vehicle accident, and that the condition was permanent. The defendants rebutted with expert witnesses who testified that the accident did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries, which were the result of ongoing degenerative change in his back. The defendants also sought to present testimony from a biochemical engineer to attest to the medical causation of the injury. However, the trial court ruled that the expert could not testify as to the medical effects caused by the impact of the car accident, since the evidence would be more prejudicial than probative.
On appeal, the court held that the trial court reasonably concluded that the biochemical engineer was not qualified to give an opinion on whether the plaintiff’s condition was exacerbated by the accident. Although such a witness may be able to testify as to such matters, in this case, the court found that there was an inadequate medical basis for some of his opinions and that they were more prejudicial than probative. Therefore, the expert’s testimony was properly limited to subjects concerning the accident reconstruction.
The appeals court also held that the award of $200,000 in future medical expenses was supported by substantial evidence. The court pointed to expert testimony that given the plaintiff’s young age, a second surgery would be likely later in life. As a result, the entire jury verdict was upheld by the court.
The San Mateo attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos are dedicated to helping victims of negligence pursue the compensation they deserve. Our hardworking personal injury attorneys can represent individuals who have been injured in truck or car accidents, motorcycle crashes, or other accidents. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.
More Blog Posts:
California Appeals Court Affirms $15 Million Verdict Against Semi-Truck Operator in Wrongful Death Action, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published November 4, 2015
California Court of Appeals Strikes Nonrelative Resident Exclusion Provision in Car Accident Case, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, April 13, 2016