The plaintiff lived in Bakersfield and worked in Los Angeles. On Jan. 18, 2000, he was a passenger on a defendant Greyhound bus heading toward Los Angeles. As the bus neared the Cesar Chavez Boulevard exit on the 101 Freeway near downtown, the plaintiff began to get up from his seat to retrieve his rain jacket and briefcase. As he stood up, the bus came to a sudden stop to avoid hitting a vehicle in front of it, and the plaintiff felt his neck snap. When the bus stopped at the downtown station, the plaintiff claimed an injury (neck strain) and filled out a card. He then worked for the whole day at his office. When he got back to Bakersfield that night, he told his wife that he was hurt on the bus and took a few aspirins.
The next day, his neck still hurt so he went to his family physician, who prescribed chiropractic therapy and pain medicines. As the months went by, the plaintiff claimed that his condition grew worse. He was referred to an orthopedist and a neurologist, but nothing eased his discomfort. Eventually, the pain in his neck and left arm caused him to stop his practice as a chiropractor.
In late August 2000, the plaintiff saw an orthopedic surgeon, Francis D’Ambrosio, M.D., who reviewed an MRI and proposed a four-level anterior/posterior discectomy and a partial carpectomy, with instrumentation. The surgeon operated as planned, but the plaintiff did not have a good result. In February 2001, the doctor ordered an X-ray of the cervical spine and an MRI scan to check the healing process. The X-ray revealed that the metal plate holding the plaintiff’s neck together anteriorly had displaced over two centimeters, and an aleoval strut had dislodged and was now floating in the neck area near the spinal cord.
On March 12, the orthopedic surgeon performed another surgery to totally decompress the front and back of the cervical spine. Another surgery was ordered for two days later, on the anterior portion of the neck. In the interim, the plaintiff’s spinal cord was injured and he developed central cord syndrome, rendering him a partial paraplegic.
The plaintiff argued that there was an unbroken causal connection between the relatively minor bus-braking incident causing a neck strain and the subsequent need for surgery that led to his paraplegia. The plaintiff claimed that there was no medical negligence.
The defendant maintained that this was a minor-impact accident that would cause nothing more than a neck sprain that should have healed within a few weeks. It argued that the surgery was not indicated and unduly risky and that it broke the causal connection. It claimed that the orthopedic surgeon was 99% responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.
INJURIES: The plaintiff claimed that the accident on the bus caused a chain of events that led to his paraplegia. The plaintiff claimed past medical specials of $930,000 (stipulated). Plaintiff suffered a $2,000 per month wage loss.
VERDICT: The jury returned an award of $15,967,000 after finding, in a 12-0 vote, that the defendant was 100% at fault. The plaintiff’s counsel reported that during trial, the parties negotiated a high/low agreement of $5.5 million low/$14.5 million high with a waiver of costs and right of appeal. Prior to Mardirossian & Associates’ involvement, an $850,000 demand was made to settle the case.
Demand: $14.5 million
Offer: $3.1 million
Trial length: 13 days
Deliberations: 2 days
Economic damages: $7,967,000
Noneconomic damages: 8,000,000