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A case study:

The verdict came down on July 2, 2008, just eight days after the trial began.

The case arose from a rear-end motor vehicle collision on November 16, 2005 involving an off-duty County of Sacramento Sherriff driving a County vehicle. Liability was not disputed. Plaintiff, 48 (now), was an estimator for Lund Construction (underground construction co.) at the time of the collision and had been working there for nearly 20 years. Before the collision he had 4 prior back surgeries (2 from comp injuries; 1 from another mvc and 1 redo surgery) with the most recent being in 1992. All the evidence established he had 13 good years with no limitations besides lifting. He had been to the doctor 2-3 times for back pain during this time. No other treatment for his back during this time. Following the collision, he had another discectomy surgery -this time at L3-4 (different level than the prior surgeries). The surgery relieved his radicular symptoms but not his back pain. He missed 5 months of work and then went back to work and worked until October 2007 when he could no longer work. A few months after his post-mvc surgery the topic of a 2 level fusion was discussed with his surgeon. He refused and wanted to try to work. Defense did not contest the surgery/treatment post MVC. Their whole defense was he : 1) should have mitigated by having the fusion earlier; and 2) he should have a 3 level fusion now and if he does he will be able to return to his desk job working full time (mitigation of future earnings). At trial, the evidence established that plaintiff did not want to have the fusion surgery and that he was not able to work given his current condition. Big dispute was over the fusion surgery, likelihood of success and whether he could return to work if he had it.

The defense and the plaintiff called expert witnesses to support their point of view:

John: Gary Nibbelink: Rehabilitation Counselor & Consultant, Sacramento, CA
John: Charles R. Mahla of Econ One Research Incorporated, Economist, Sacramento, CA
John: Tushar Goradia, M.D., Neurological Surgeon, Goradia Medical Corporation, Carmichael, CA
John: Ardvan Aslie, M.D., treating medical expert, Sacramento, CA
Defense: George Picetti, M.D., Sutter Medical Group, Orthopedic Surgeon, Sacramento, CA
Defense: Carol Hyland, Carol Hyland Rehabilitation Consultant, Vocational Rehabilitation, Lafayette, CA
Defense: Kirk Blackerby, Economist, Morgan Hill, CA

The defense attorney asked the jury to award $600,000.00 with no future wage loss. John asked for $5.5 million. The jury consisted of eight people, six women and two men. One woman was a state employee and another one was a county employee. Here is the breakdown of the award:

Medical Expenses: $75,007.40
Lost Earnings: $130,000.00
Future Medical Expenses: $325,000.00
Future Lost Earnings: $1,900,000.00
General Damages: $1,000,000.00
Future General Damages: $1,000,000.00
Joann’s Loss of Consortium: $70,000.00

Total comes to $4,500,007.40.

Following this collision and surgery, Mr. Friese missed approximately ten months, went back to work part-time for 6 weeks and then worked full-time from October 2006 until he went off completely on October 2007. He did everything he could to keep working but the pain in his low back continued to worsen to the point he could no longer work. John strongly believes the jury found him more credible because he tried to work instead of not working at all and trying to use this collision as his meal ticket.

The best part about this case was the fact that John offered the defendants a §998 offer of $1.9 million in December of 2007 that the defense passed over.

We got an article in the SacBee and were published in Verdict Search.

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