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Our Verdicts

$1,750,000

18-Wheeler Collision

Settlement

$1,467,000

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Jury Verdict

$1,070,000

AUTO ACCIDENT 

Jury Verdict

AUTO ACCIDENT CAUSED INJURIES OF BACK AND NECK

HARRIS County

MOTOR VEHICLE

Rear-ender — Multiple Vehicle — Hit and Run — Underinsured Motorist

Auto accident caused injuries of back and neck, plaintiff claimed

Verdict

$380,295

Case

Lizette Ventura v. Allstate Fire and
Casualty Insurance Co. and
Daniel Ramirez,
No. 2016-21633

Court

Harris County District Court, 215th

Judge

Elaine H. Palmer

Date

8/27/2019

Plaintiff Attorney(s)
Eric D. Nielsen (lead), The Nielsen
Law Firm, P.C., Houston, TX
Shea N. Palavan, The
Nielsen Law Firm, P.C., Houston, TX
Defense Attorney(s)
Wesley R. Ward,
Hope & Causey,
Houston, TX
Facts & Allegations

On Aug. 19, 2014, plaintiff Lizette Ventura, 19, a student, was driving on Boone Road, in Houston. She stopped at a stop sign at High Star Drive and was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver. Ventura claimed that she suffered injuries of her back and neck. She had $30,000 in uninsured-motorist coverage with Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Co., and she filed a UM claim. The adjuster was Daniel Ramirez.

Ventura sued Allstate and Ramirez. Against Allstate, she asserted a UM claim. She alleged that the hit-and-run driver was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. She asserted extra-contractual claims against both Allstate and Ramirez, but those claims were severed three years before trial.

On the morning of trial, Allstate stipulated to the hit- and-run driver’s negligence.

Injuries/Damages

arm; chiropractic; disc protrusion, cervical; herniated disc at C4-5; herniated disc at C5-6; nerve impingement; numbness; radicular pain / radiculitis; shoulder

Ventura went to a chiropractor 16 days after the accident and complained of pain radiating from her neck to her shoulders and arms. The chiropractor diagnosed sprains and strains and recommended conservative care.

Ventura ultimately claimed that she suffered neck, upper back, bilateral shoulder and arm pain; radiating pain, tingling and numbness in her arms; protrusions of the C2-3, C3-4 and C6-7 intervertebral discs; a herniation of the C4-5 intervertebral disc, with abutment and effacement of the spinal cord; and a herniation of the C5-6 intervertebral disc, with effacement of the spinal cord. She denied prior neck or back problems.

Ventura immediately began physical therapy with the chiropractor. The treatment lasted until mid-January 2015. The chiropractor also referred her to a family practitioner. On Nov. 18, 2014, and Jan. 7, 2015, Ventura was also evaluated by a pain management specialist. He recommended a cervical epidural injection, but Ventura declined it. She testified that a friend of her father’s was partially paralyzed by a cervical epidural injection.

Three years later, on Jan. 2, 2018, Ventura went back to the pain management doctor for a single office visit. The doctor testified by video deposition and opined that Ventura’s disc herniations were permanent. He further opined that her herniations and protrusions were caused by the accident, based mostly on the fact that she had no neck problems before the accident. In addition, besides recommending a cervical epidural injection, he opined that Ventura may need additional treatment for complications from having herniated discs at such a young age.

Ventura testified that she used to run two to three miles four or five days a week and that, now, the most she runs is one mile one or two times a week. She used to do cardio exercises and lift weights but now does only light weights and a little yoga. She can no longer sit for long periods, stand for long periods or go on long road trips. Although she was not employed at the time of the accident, she testified that she later worked in a day care facility and was unable to lift the children, who were small. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Ventura’s impairment was shown by the fact that she has gained 30 pounds since the accident. Ventura testified that, since the accident, she had been in severe pain on a daily basis.

Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award $10,495 for past medical expenses. Plaintiff’s counsel also sought damages for future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, and past and future physical impairment.

The defense disputed causation of the injuries. The impact was minor, the defense argued, and Ventura was wearing her seat belt. Also, there was no testimony that her head moved suddenly as a result of the impact.

The defense also disputed Ventura’s claims of pain and impairment. Defense counsel noted that Ventura missed no work and that she continued to run, lift weights and do yoga. He emphasized the three-year gap from January 2015 to January 2018. When she returned to the pain management doctor in 2018, it was at the doctor’s own suggestion ̧ and defense counsel argued that the jury should not award the charge for that visit, which was $200.

Regarding future medical expenses, the defense pointed out that oral steroids costing $40 were recommended, but that Ventura never took them. The defense argued that her future medical expenses should be limited to that amount.

Result

The jury determined that Ventura’s damages totaled $380,295. Ventura’s recovery will likely be limited to the insurance policy’s limit: $30,000.

Lizette Ventura

$10,295 past medical cost
$100,000 future medical cost
$10,000 past physical impairment
$125,000 future physical impairment
$10,000 past pain and suffering
$125,000 future pain and suffering
$380,295

Demand Offer

$30,000 (insurance coverage’s limit)
Offer $7,800

Trial Details

Allstate Insurance Co.

Insurer(s)

Trial Deliberations: 1.5 hours
Jury Vote: 10-2
Jury Composition: 4 male, 8 female

Plaintiff Expert(s)

Bobby Pervez, M.D.,
pain management,
Sugar Land, TX
(treating doctor;
videotaped testimony presented)

Defense Expert(s)

None reported

Editor’s Note:This report is based on information
that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel. –John Schneider