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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

Plaintiff claimed aggravation of lower back injury in rear-ender

Harris County

Motor Vehicle

Rear-ender – Multiple Vehicle

Plaintiff claimed aggravation of lower back injury in rear-ender

Verdict

$130,000

Case

Mario Carrillo-Gutierrez v. Camille Sanford, No. 2015-74312

Court

Harris County District Court, 234th, TX

Judge

Wesley Ward

Date

12/14/2017

Plaintiff Attorney(s)
Eric D. Nielsen (lead), The Nielsen Law Firm, P.C., Houston, TX
Pulkit Moudgil, The Nielsen Law Firm, P.C., Houston, TX
Defense Attorney(s)
Mark E. Yborra, Levin & Clinebell, Houston, TX
Facts & Allegations

On Feb. 28, 2014, plaintiff Mario Carrillo-Gutierrez, 34, a roofer, was driving a 2001 Nissan Sentra south in the 2300 block of State Highway 6 in Harris County. He stopped for traffic, and Camille Sanford rear-ended him in a 2013 Volkswagen CC sedan. Carrillo-Gutierrez claimed lower back injuries.

Carrillo-Gutierrez sued Sanford for negligently failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to control her speed, driving too fast, following too closely and failing to brake or turn in time to avoid the collision.

Sanford stipulated to liability on the first day of trial.

Injuries/Damages

aggravation of pre-existing condition; chiropractic; disc protrusion, lumbar; disc protrusion, thoracic; epidural injections; nerve impingement; physical therapy; soft tissue

Carrillo-Gutierrez had pre-existing conditions from motor vehicle accidents in 2011 and 2013. He claimed that an MRI taken after the 2014 accident and an MRI taken after the 2011 accident showed objective differences that demonstrated an aggravation of the pre-existing conditions.

The second MRI was read as showing a 1-millimeter posterior protrusion at T11-12 with 5 percent effacement of the thecal sac, whereas the first MRI was read as showing nothing remarkable from T11-12 to L1-2. The plaintiff’s pain management doctor opined that effacement of the thecal sac can cause back pain and radiating symptoms and that he had discogenic pain, as well.

Regarding L4-5, the second MRI was read as showing 5 to 10 percent effacement of the thecal sac from a 2-millimeter posterior protrusion, whereas the first MRI was read as showing only 5 percent effacement from this protrusion.

Regarding L5-S1, the second MRI was read as showing 10 percent effacement of the thecal sac from a 3-millimeter posterior herniation, and the first MRI was read as showing no thecal sac involvement.

At L2-3, L3-4 and L4-5, both MRIs showed posterior protrusions of 1, 1 and 2 millimeters, respectively, with 5 percent effacement of the thecal sac at each level.

He underwent chiropractic care and physical therapy from March 4 to July 16 with 33 visits. He also underwent a lumbar MRI, and the pain management doctor performed two lumbar epidural steroid injections.

Carillo-Gutierrez testified that, between the 2013 accident and the 2014 accident, he was able to play soccer, mop the floors at his church, climb ladders to clean second-story windows, and carry his children for normal lengths of time. He couldn’t do any of these activities after the 2014 accident, he said.

Carrillo-Gutierrez claimed past and future physical pain and suffering and physical impairment and asked the jury for a total of $250,000 to $300,000.

He abandoned any claims for past and future medical bills, lost earnings and disfigurement before jury selection.

The defense argued that the 2014 accident did not aggravate any pre-existing condition and that it caused simply a soft-tissue “whiplash” injury that should have resolved after a few months.

The defense expert, an orthopedic surgeon, opined that the epidural steroid injections were not medically necessary or indicated. He also opined that the differences between the two MRIs were not clinically significant and that effacement of the thecal sac was not equivalent to nerve impingement.

Result

The jury awarded Carrillo-Gutierrez $130,000.

Mario Carrillo- Gutierrez
$10,000 past physical impairment
$45,000 future physical impairment
$25,000 past physical pain and suffering
$50,000 future physical pain and suffering
$130,000
Demand

$30,000 (policy limit; Stowers)

Offer

$21,000

Insurer(s)

Government Employees Insurance Co.

Trial Details
Trial Length: 2 days
Trial Deliberations: 3 hours
Jury Vote: 10-2
Jury Composition: 7 male, 5 female
Plaintiff Expert(s)

Bobby Pervez, M.D., pain management, Sugar Land, TX (treating doctor)

Defense Expert(s)

Charles F. Xeller, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Houston, TX
Editor’s Note: This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel. –John Schneider