Admitting Fault Is Not a Blank Check for Medical Treatment

Selman Breitman Lands Another Trial Victory!

Partners Paul Stephan and Bill Mall of Selman Breitman's Orange County office have successfully defended against another of the emerging "lien only" lawsuits by bringing in a verdict near the amount of the pretrial offer, and less than plaintiff's 998 Offer to Compromise, in another case with admitted negligence. 

It was a seven-day jury trial in the Los Angeles County Superior Court (Long Beach District), in California. The client was the driver of a rental car covered by the rental car company's insurance product.  The driver, whose car was parked, opened his door, striking the 27-year-old plaintiff who was riding his bicycle.  Paramedics responded and did a complete examination finding only minor injuries and a complaint of back pain. The emergency room found essentially the same injuries and did X-rays to the back. The only significant pain claimed in the emergency room was to the lower back. The defendants admitted the negligence of the driver, but disputed the causation for extensive injuries and damages being claimed. The plaintiff sought damages for permanent injuries in his left knee and lower back, with a claim for a future surgery to the knee. Plaintiff asked the jury to award nearly $1 million in economic and non-economic damages.

For the defendants, Paul and Bill challenged the $85,000 in past medical lien specials and $45,000 claimed for future surgery. Cross-examination of the plaintiff's expert neurosurgeon, orthopedic specialists, and pain management doctors focused on causation for a knee claim arising months after the accident. This claimed knee "ACL tear" in the knee was not disclosed to the ER and the first treating medical specialist for over 30 visits. Additionally, Paul and Bill showed that plaintiff stopped treating more than two years ago with 0/1 on the pain scale for both the back and knee, but then claimed "disabling" pain during the defense exam conducted three weeks before trial by the defense doctor. The defendants accepted responsibility for several months of back pain but nothing more. The defense doctor testified that neither an ACL tear nor an ACL sprain was evident on the MRI taken three months post-accident. Plaintiff, a short order cook, waived his loss of earnings claim at trial.

After less than two and a half hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously agreed with the defense arguments on the knee, awarding $66,000 in medicals (past specials) and only awarding $10,000 in future medicals for the back, for a total verdict of $111,603. The defense beat the plaintiff's statutory demand of $175,000.

For more information about this case, or to discuss its implications for any of your current or open matters, please contact Paul Stephan or Bill Mall.

Selman Breitman provides this information for educational purposes. Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case. This information should not be construed or relied on as legal advice or to create a lawyer-client relationship.