United States District Court, C.D. California
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
CHRISTINA A. SNYDER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter was tried to the Court on October 21, October 27,
October 28 and November 3, 2016. William Karns appeared for
plaintiff and Assistant United States Attorney Garrett Coyle
appeared for the United States.
FINDINGS OF FACT
the morning of January 9, 2015, United States Postal Service
letter carrier Sue Silva was delivering mail on her normal
route in Northridge. She was driving a government-owned 1992
Grumman LLV Postal Service vehicle eastbound on Chase Street,
just west of Tampa Avenue.
Silva came to a red light at Tampa Avenue, and signaled to
make a left turn to proceed north on Tampa Avenue. After
determining that it would take significant time to make a
left hand turn, Ms. Silva decided instead to make a right
hand turn onto Tampa Avenue going south where she planned to
move to the center lane and turn left across Tampa Avenue
into a parking lot, so that she could turn her vehicle around
and make a right hand turn to proceed in the northerly
direction on Tampa Avenue.
Silva testified that once she made a right hand turn onto
Tampa Avenue, she checked her mirrors, saw no cars behind her
in the left lane, used her left turn signal, and then started
to move into the left lane in accordance with her plan to
turn around in the parking lot set as forth above.
Ms. Silva began to drive her vehicle into the left lane going
south on Tampa Avenue, she collided into the passenger side
of a 2012 Nissan Sentra driven by plaintiff Kyle Anthony
the time of the collision Ms. Silva and plaintiff were
traveling southbound in the same direction.
After the collision, plaintiff stopped his car in the center
lane without hitting any other cars or objects.
Plaintiff was wearing his seatbelt when the collision
Plaintiff was driving 53 miles per hour when the collision
occurred. He had been accelerating just before the collision.
posted speed limit on Tampa Avenue where the collision
occurred is 40 miles per hour.
Both plaintiff and Ms. Silva were negligent. Plaintiff was
speeding based on data obtained from the Nissan's
“black box.” According to the government's
witness, had plaintiff been observing the speed limit, he
could have braked to avoid the accident. However, Ms. Silva
should have observed plaintiff in her side view mirror and
was obligated not to change lanes until she was certain that
the road was clear. Plaintiff's automobile should have
been observable as it was plainly behind Ms. Silva's
vehicle when she attempted to change lanes, and even if Ms.
Silva could not see plaintiff from her left side view mirror,
she should have looked to the left rear for oncoming traffic
before she attempted to make a lane change. In light of these
facts, it appears that plaintiff was fifty percent at fault
and Ms. Silva was fifty percent at fault.
Chest contusion and moderate back and neck
parties dispute what injuries plaintiff suffered as a result
of the January 9, 2015 accident (“the January
accident”). According to the government, the only
injuries plaintiff sustained from the January accident were a
chest contusion and a moderate temporary back and neck
strain. In this regard, the government asserts that
plaintiff's only complaint to the paramedics and to the
emergency room doctors on January 9, 2015, was moderate right
government notes that the emergency room doctor ordered
x-rays of plaintiff's neck and chest, both of which were
According to the government, the emergency room doctor also
examined plaintiff's back and musculoskeletal system,
both of which were normal, and noted no weakness.
Finally, the government notes that the emergency room doctor
diagnosed plaintiff with a chest contusion, prescribed a few
days of pain medication, and discharged him the same day of
Four days later, on January 13, 2015, plaintiff saw an
orthopedist, Dr. Ramin Rabbani. At that time, plaintiff
complained of chest, back, and neck pain. Dr. Rabbani
diagnosed him with a chest contusion and a back and neck
sprain. However, Dr. Rabbani opined that because this was a
side impact collision, the injury was probably more severe,
noting that plaintiff reported right flank pain which
“can encompass the spine.” Although Dr. Rabbani
acknowledges that plaintiff's subsequent testimony that
he experienced back pain with radiation at the time of the
accident was not identified in the emergency room records, he
testified that delayed complaints of low back pain are common
with a traumatic event such as the January accident.
Plaintiff returned to see Dr. Rabbani on March 3, 2015,
reporting continued cervical and lumbar pain that radiated to
his buttocks and thighs. Dr. Rabbani ordered more physical
therapy and an MRI of the cervical and lumber spine.
According to Dr. Rabbani, the MRI showed disc protrusion at
¶ 5-6, disc bulges at ¶ 3-4 and L4-5. The L4-5 disc
bulge extended into the bilateral neural foraminal exit zones
and resulted in a neural foraminal narrowing which, according
to Dr. Rabbani, was the “primary culprit” of
plaintiff's low back and radicular complaints. Dr.
Rabbani opined that it was unclear whether the January
accident or long-standing degenerative disease caused the
disc bulge, but given plaintiff's youth and the degree of
plaintiff's pain, he believed the accident was the cause
of this injury.
Rabbani thereafter performed epidural injections in April and
June 2015, to alleviate plaintiff's pain. The injections
provided temporary relief, but plaintiff's pain returned.
In October 2015, Dr. Rabbani performed a surgery in an
attempt to decompress the nerves at ¶ 4-5.
No head injury
Although plaintiff asserts that the impact of the accident
caused him to hit his head, plaintiff did not sustain a head
injury in the accident.
accident caused plaintiff's head and body to move forward
and to the right during the collision - that is, away from
the driver-side door and towards the passenger seat.
Consistent with these mechanics, plaintiff did not report
head trauma or any symptoms of head injury to the paramedics
responding to the scene of the accident, although he
subsequently reported headaches when he visited Dr. Rabbani.
No signs of head trauma were noted by the paramedics or the
emergency room medical staff.
paramedics assessed plaintiff's Glasgow Coma score as 15,
which is normal.
Plaintiff denied having any headaches in the emergency room
and reported no head injury.
neurologist who saw plaintiff on January 21, 2015, reported
no objective evidence of head injury, and neither the
government expert nor plaintiff's expert asserts that
plaintiff suffered a significant head injury.
brain MRI on January 22, 2015, was normal.
EEG on March 19, 2015, was normal.
No herniated disc or pinched nerve
Plaintiff did not sustain a herniated disc or pinched nerve
in the accident.
government asserts that the highest change in speed that
plaintiff's body experienced during the collision was 3.1
miles per hour, and that a change of this magnitude was too
mild to have caused a traumatic disc herniation in
plaintiff's back or neck.
MRIs of plaintiff's neck and back on March 10, 2015, show
longstanding degenerative changes, and not any abnormalities
caused by acute trauma, such as a herniated disc or pinched
other test results in the six months after the accident
showed a herniated disc or pinched nerve.
According to the government's experts, moderate
soft-tissue strains like the one plaintiff sustained
typically resolve within about six weeks as the soft-tissue
inflammation gradually subsides.
Plaintiff reported that his chest pain had resolved by his
second visit to Dr. Rabbani on March 3, 2015.
Rabbani performed a physical examination during
plaintiff's March 3, 2015 visit. Aside from the MRI
results described above, no objective test results showed any
back or neck injuries.
Plaintiff missed no days of work after the accident and
continued to work full-time in his job as a machinist.
Rabbani did not place any physical restrictions on
plaintiff's job duties, which involved regularly lifting
up to 100 pounds.
Plaintiff received a positive performance review and was
given a raise in April 2015.
Although the government provided expert testimony and
argument that the reasonable amount was $11, 786.90,
plaintiff's health care providers billed a total of $16,
211.50 for the care attributable to the January accident.
This excludes emergency room services ...