Following a California truck accident, the victim in a recent case before the California Court of Appeal pursued a personal injury claim against the truck driver and his trucking company. The lower court awarded the plaintiff $3.3 million for damages, since he suffered serious physical injuries in the collision. After the appellate court had reversed an earlier decision in the victim’s favor, the jury had found that it was reasonably certain the plaintiff would require four future shoulder surgeries. The defendant argued that one surgery was reasonably certain, and the evidence did not support a finding that three other surgeries were required.
The appellate court in this opinion restated the facts, which indicate that at the time of the collision, the defendant driver had been crossing the southbound lanes of traffic on Pacific Coast Highway, heading north. The plaintiff had been driving a minivan southbound when he crashed into the flatbed trailer at about 45 miles per hour. After being extricated from the vehicle, he suffered an open fracture in his left shoulder.
The jury, on retrial, found that the defendant’s negligence substantially caused the plaintiff’s injuries. They also held that the plaintiff had been negligent, but his own negligence had not been a substantial factor in causing his injuries. Damages for future medical costs, including four shoulder surgeries, were estimated to be over $3 million ($161,750 per surgery).
Turning to the issue of whether there was substantial evidence supporting the jury’s award of medical expenses for four future shoulder surgeries, the court stated that the defendant requested the award be reduced by $485,250. The court turned to the testimony of treating surgeons and experts who reviewed the partial shoulder replacement that had occurred on the plaintiff. The testimony of a certified life care planner expert was considered, since he prepared a report that included costs for future life care, including future surgeries. However, this report had not been admitted into evidence and was not included in the record.
Regarding whether the evidence supported a finding that the plaintiff required four future shoulder surgeries, the court stated that a plaintiff is entitled to recover damages when a detriment is “reasonably certain” to occur. Juries determine probabilities, according to the court.
On appeal, the court assessed whether substantial evidence supported the finding set forth by the lower court. The burden of proof was one of reasonable certainty by a preponderance of the evidence.
Based on the testimony concerning the plaintiff’s needs for future surgery, the court stated a reasonable trier of fact could find it was reasonably certain that the plaintiff would require four future surgeries. One doctor opined that over time, the metal ball in the plaintiff’s shoulder socket would wear away the socket, and the plaintiff would require another surgery at around the age of 31. He would then require surgery every 15 years, for a total of three future revisions.
After a motor vehicle collision, if you have suffered injuries, the Los Angeles attorneys at Sharifi Firm can help. We seek compensation for clients throughout Southern California who have been hurt by the careless conduct of others. To set up a free consultation with an experienced truck accident attorney, call our office at 866-422-7222 or complete our online form.
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California Court Holds Jury Could Reasonably Conclude Plaintiff’s Allegation of Causation in Tree Trimming Accident was Speculative and Evidence Supported Their Verdict in Favor of Defendant, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, May 11, 2017
California Appeal Court Upholds Judgment for Defendant Ambulance Services When Plaintiff Failed to Show Evidence that Alleged Delay in Transportation to Hospital Caused Resulting Injury, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 13, 2017