Articles Posted in Spinal Cord Injury

A Minnesota jury has signed a $28 million verdict for the injuries suffered by a teenager who is now a quadriplegic after the car in which she was passenger was struck by a school bus. The crash occurred in 2009 when Paige Anderson was just 16 years old.  Another passenger in that car was killed in the crash.

The case was tried to a jury in Itasca County, which assigned 10% of the fault for the crash to the bus driver. The rest of the liability was placed on the driver of the vehicle in which Paige Anderson was seated. The attorney representing her said that both drivers are insured against claims like this, but the insurance coverage is substantially less than this verdict. The attorney representing Paige Anderson was Stephanie Ball.

“Awards this large are very rare in greater Minnesota, but this was a unique and heartbreaking case,” Ball stated, adding that the jurors’ verdict “recognizes the tragic injuries suffered by a young woman whose life was just getting started.”

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Raymond Berke fell in the vestibule of an apartment building where he and his wife were staying with friends. A doorman heard but did not see him fall. There were no eyewitnesses. He suffered spinal injuries that rendered him a quadriplegic. He has no memory of his fall.

Berke filed a lawsuit against the building owner and the management company claiming that the vestibule area, stairs and doorway, in particular, were improperly designed and maintained and were a direct and proximate cause of his injuries.  His wife brought a loss of consortium claims against both defendants.

The defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial judge entered judgment in their favor. The Berkes argued that they presented sufficient admissible evidence to support their prima facie case of premises liability that would preclude summary judgment. They also contended that the trial court erred in striking parts of their expert witness affidavits, submitted in support of their response to defendants’ summary judgment motion and that the court should have granted their motion to cite supplemental authority.

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Angela Rogers, 45, was driving when she slowed her vehicle for traffic ahead. She was at a virtual stop when a Hertz Corp. employee driving a company car rear-ended Rogers’ car while traveling at about 60 mph.

Rogers suffered serious injuries which included bilateral labral tears to her hips. The crash also triggered spinal stenosis, causing her to suffer neck pain and impingement in her right arm and hand. Rogers continued to work for nearly 3 years while undergoing conservative medical treatment. When debilitating pain made it impossible for her to continue at work, Rogers was placed on leave. Soon thereafter she underwent bilateral hip surgery.

Rogers continues to live with chronic pain and she likely will require a cervical fusion to address her neck pain. Her past medical expenses totaled more than $390,000 and her future medical expenses are estimated at $600,000.

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Lizeth Pimentel, age 24, approached a bridge in Long Beach, Calif., while driving her SUV. The bridge was undergoing a seismic retrofit, which necessitated lane closures and led to traffic backups. As she drove onto the bridge, several vehicles in front of her stopped without warning. She lost control of her SUV, crossed several lanes of traffic and struck the bridge’s handrail, plummeting with her vehicle into the Los Angeles River 40 feet below. Pimentel was submerged in her vehicle for about 30 minutes, was in a coma for 8 months and sustained anoxic brain damage as a result of the incident.

Pimentel, who had been a clerk earning about $10 an hour, now suffers from permanent tetraplegia. Tetraplegia is also known as quadriplegia where there is a total loss of use of all four limbs and the torso. Compared to paraplegia, although similar, it does not affect the arms.

Pimentel and her husband filed a lawsuit against the general contractor for the project, Riverside Construction Co., the subcontractor that designed the project’s traffic control plan, FPL & Associates Inc., the City of Long Beach and the subcontractor resident engineer, TCM Group Inc.

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Colin Lacy was a truck driver for an oil recycling company. He took his Freightliner tanker truck to Empire Truck Sales for preventative maintenance. A mechanic at Empire replaced leaking oil seals on the truck’s rear differential but allegedly chose not to replace the lock nuts on the bolts of the lateral control rod.

A month later Lacy took the truck back to Empire complaining that it was vibrating at higher speeds and making grinding noises. The same mechanic test drove the truck but did not inspect the lateral control rod, which had loosened as a result of the earlier improper repair. The mechanic also allegedly found that the truck’s antilock braking system (ABS) was not working properly but chose not to correct it anyway.

When Lacy picked up the truck three days later and began driving it, the ABS warning light came on. He called Empire but was told that the braking system was fine. Later that day, while Lacy was driving in the rain, the truck began shaking. He applied the brakes, but the ABS system locked up. The truck went out of control, struck the median and rolled over.

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Jose Bedoya, 43, was exiting westbound Interstate 90 at Lee Street when his car was hit from behind while stopped at the end of the exit ramp.  Bedoya was rear-ended by the defendant, Tina Raya, who was driving her GMC Yukon SUV. 

The impact, according to Bedoya, was heavy and pushed his car several feet forward. He said his head jerked forward and back. Bedoya was taken by ambulance to Resurrection Hospital with complaints of neck pain.

Although the crash was on Sept. 19, 2009, it wasn’t until August 2010 that an MRI showed that Bedoya suffered a large herniated disc at C5-6 requiring a surgical disc replacement surgery that took place in November 2010. 

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A Lake County, Ill., jury returned a $183,008 verdict in favor of Patricia Lewis, whose car was rear-ended by another vehicle at high speed. The crash took place on Nov. 7, 2008 on northbound Route 12 near Route 134 in Fox Lake, Ill.  The impact of the defendant’s collision with Lewis pushed her car ahead and triggered a five-car chain reaction.

Lewis, age 50, claimed that the impact and resulting injuries to her caused a herniated disk at C5-6 (neck) with radiculopathy into her right arm. She also claimed that she will need future neck fusion surgery. The Lewis claim for lost time from work as a medical administrator was barred by the court. Radiculopathy in the neck is often described as a pinched nerve. Some people complain that the neck pain radiates into the arm, like Lewis did in this case. 

Lewis’s husband testified that she had been his fishing partner, but she was no longer able to go boating after the crash because of her neck injury. The husband also testified that Lewis is now unable to cook family dinners, do normal household chores or do yard work. 

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A Cook County jury has found in favor of an injured driver whose car was rear-ended at a traffic light on eastbound Liberty Street at Route 59 in Aurora, Ill. The crash took place on Jan. 23, 2008 when the 19-year-old defendant failed to stop his vehicle and rear-ended the car driven by the plaintiff, Mr. Castillo. Although there was very little damage to the cars, Mr. Castillo, 38, was taken to the emergency room at Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora. He was released after x-rays were shown to be negative.

Mr. Castillo sustained neck pain and low back pain and received no medical treatment since 2008. He missed three months of work as a bricklayer totaling a claimed amount of $33,000 in lost pay.

However, at the time of the crash, the plaintiff was unemployed. He received a job offer after the crash, but was unable to accept it due to his injuries from this crash. The wage loss claim was based on the job he was forced to refuse.

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On Memorial Day 200, M.P. was severely injured when her car was hit by a sheriff’s officer who was driving his car at about 75 mph through a red light on the Midlothian Turnpike. M.P. suffered partial paralysis and has since lived in a nursing home. She is paralyzed below her neck and unable to speak. The crash killed M.P.’s passenger.

Approximately 90 minutes after the crash, a blood exam revealed that M.P. had exceeded the legal limit of alcohol. M.P.’ s lawyers argued that her body was still absorbing the alcohol when the blood test was done and that her intoxication level was lower at the time of the crash. Cook County countered that M.P. was eliminating the alcohol at the test time, so her alcohol content was actually higher at the time of the crash.

The lawsuit was brought by M.P. against the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, but the trial judge excluded evidence of M.P.’s alcohol consumption. In that jury trial, it was found that M.P. was 25 percent responsible for the crash, but the jury awarded her $26.8 million.

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A recent Cook County lawsuit was reviewed by the Illinois Appellate Court, which found that the trial judge had erred in dismissing the plaintiff’s personal injury claim. While the judge had held that the case facts supported a summary judgment in favor of the defendant hospital, the appellate court found that there was sufficient evidence to support some of the plaintiff’s claims. Caburnay v. Norwegian American Hospital, 2011 IL App. (1st) 101740 (Dec. 23, 2011).

The injury in question occurred at Norwegian American Hospital. The plaintiff, Dr. Fernando Caburnay, was an anesthesiologist at the hospital and was waiting for an elevator at the time of his accident. It was a rainy day and a 6 ft. x 10 ft. rubber mat had been placed in front of the elevator. As Dr. Caburnay was stepping back from pressing the call button, he tripped backwards over the mat. The back of his head hit a couch, and he fractured his spine, leaving him a quadriplegic.

Dr. Caburnay filed a personal injury lawsuit against Norwegian American Hospital, the basis of which was their negligence in creating a dangerous situation in the form of the rubber and fabric mat. Dr. Caburnay testified that the mat was the cause of his injury; he tripped after catching his foot on a fold in the mat and falling backwards. However, the hospital denied liability for Dr. Caburnay’s injuries and filed a motion for summary judgment in which it asked the judge to dismiss the claims against Norwegian American Hospital. The judge complied, at which point Dr. Caburnay filed an appeal.

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