Plaintiff in a TBI case asks the jury for $7.5 million. Jury awards $27,500. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Defense says the case for TBI was built up by doctors working on liens. $100,000 policy was demanded. Plaintiff counsel lambasts judge as unfair. 

The Case

  • Case Name: Cisneros v. Arjomand
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / 20STCV26208
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, March 25, 2024
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, July 13, 2020
  • Type of Case: Highlighted Verdicts, Vehicles - Left Turn
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Gregory Alarcon
  • Plaintiffs:
    Teresa Cisneros
  • Defendants:
    Alexander Arjomand
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $27,500 with plaintiff 25% contributorily negligent.
  • Net Verdict or Award: $20,625 after 25% contrib. negligence
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 75% to defendant; 25% to plaintiff.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 6 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 1/2 hours
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defendant’s memorandum of costs is approximately $120,000. Plaintiff to ask for new trial (see additional notes).

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    The Barrett Lawyers, APC by Joseph Barrett and Andre Gregoire, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Gates, Gonter, Guy, Proudfoot & Muench, LLP by Gina Y. Kandarian-Stein and K. Robert Gonter, Jr., Irvine.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Marissa Chang, M.D., neurology.

    Jennifer Zhan, M.D., emergency medicine.

    Ricardo Porras, D.C., chiropractic.

    Michael Schiffman, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

    Marisa Chang, M.D., neurology.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Aria Nick Shamie, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

    Barry Ludwig, M.D., neurology.

    Richard Rhee, M.D., neuroradiology.

    Manuel Gutierrez, Ph.D., neuropsychology.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Jon Landerville, accident reconstruction.

     

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    None.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Liability was disputed in this accident that occurred on November 21, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. at the uncontrolled intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Barry in Los Angeles. Defendant was traveling eastbound on Wilshire Boulevard in the number three lane. Plaintiff was making a left turn from westbound Wilshire Boulevard onto Barry when they collided. The impact caused plaintiff’s vehicle to roll onto its left side.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff claimed that defendant was unlawfully in the number three lane because signage indicated the number three lane was for buses and bikes only during the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

    Plaintiff also argued that the vehicles in the number one and two lanes of eastbound Wilshire stopped to allow plaintiff to complete her left turn.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant argued that defendant was lawfully in the number three lane because the signage also stated “Right Turns OK” and defendant was going to make a right turn at the next major intersection of Federal.

    Further, that plaintiff made an unsafe left turn in front of defendant’s vehicle when defendant’s vehicle was close enough to constitute an immediate hazard. The speed limit in the area of the accident is 35 mph. Plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert, Jon Landerville, admitted that defendant was traveling 30-35 mph and that he braked and slowed to 22 mph at impact. Mr. Landerville also testified plaintiff was traveling 15 mph at impact, which defendant argued proved that plaintiff did not slow as she crossed the eastbound lanes of Wilshire during her left turn.

    Defendant argued Vehicle Code Section 21801 was applicable: “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a U-turn upon a highway, or to turn left into public or private property shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles which are close enough to constitute an immediate hazard at any time during the turning movement and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety.” Defendant also relied on Vehicle Code Section 21802(a) at trial: “Where…some, but not all of the oncoming vehicles have yielded their right-of-way to a left turning driver, that driver has a continuing duty during the turning movement to ascertain, before proceeding across the next open lanes(s) if any vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction so close as to constitute a hazard. If the oncoming vehicle in the lane closest to the left turning vehicle surrenders its right-of-way by indicating to the operator of the left turning vehicle that it desires to proceed, such operator may not proceed beyond that first lane of traffic, now effectively blocked by the waiving vehicle, if in fact the other vehicles approaching in any of the other oncoming lanes will constitute a hazard to the left turning vehicle during the turning movement.”

    Defendant argued the following:

    If plaintiff had waited one second, this accident would not have happened; If plaintiff had looked in the number three lane of eastbound Wilshire, she would have seen defendant’s vehicle was close enough to constitute an immediate hazard; plaintiff did not slow down as she made her left turn in front of defendant’s vehicle; if a bus or bike were in the number three lane, the bus or bike would have struck plaintiff’s vehicle; the number one and two lanes of eastbound Wilshire were not yielding to plaintiff because they were stopped to keep the intersection clear pursuant to signage that read “Do Not Block Intersection”; and that the signage for buses and bikes was past the intersection of Barry, which is where defendant was traveling in order to make a right turn onto Federal.

    As to injuries, defendant argued this was a case of attorney-referred medical build-up on a lien and defendant disputed the nature and extent of injuries and damages alleged by plaintiff.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff claimed traumatic brain injury; concussion; right shoulder; neck; and low back. Plaintiff underwent a PRP injection to the right shoulder and she claimed that she needed epidural injections to the low back in the future. 

    Plaintiff did not introduce any past or future medical bills. Plaintiff asked the jury to award past and future non-economic damages only.

    Plaintiff did not have complaints of pain, discomfort or problems at the scene. She declined an ambulance at the scene. Plaintiff testified the seatbelt restrained her. When plaintiff went to Kaiser Permanente on the night of the accident, a CT of the head at Kaiser was normal and a CT of the neck was also normal.  She later sought chiropractic treatment and then treated with an orthopedic physician who referred her for a PRP injection to her shoulder; he later testified for plaintiff. She was never prescribed any medication throughout her course of treatment. Plaintiff also testified that she has no intention to have the low-back injections. Almost two years later, she saw a neurologist and reported head injury symptoms. He diagnosed  an axonal shear injury but plaintiff never had any of the treatment recommended by the neurologist. 

    There was testimony from plaintiff’s daughter that plaintiff is a different person since the accident.

    Defense experts contested most of the findings and treatment plans put forth by plaintiff's treating and expert medical witnesses.  

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: 0.00
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: 0.00
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: 0.00
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: 0.00

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $100,000
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: Plaintiff asked the jury to award $7,475,520 ($1,518,720 past non-economic + $5,956,800 future non-economic.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $55,000.
  • Defendant Offer during Trial: Defense told the jury that if they wanted to give plaintiff anything, give plaintiff $10,000 to $15,000 in past non-economic damages and $0.00 in future non-economic damages.

Additional Notes

Per plaintiff's counsel:

Plaintiff's counsel felt that the trial was completely unfair. Assigned on Monday, March 11, to report to Dept. 96, Judge Gregory W. Alarcon, on Friday March 15: "We were shocked that when we arrived in Court, the judge had zero discussions with the lawyers before immediately ruling on all motions in limine by providing both sides with a sheet outlining rulings at 9:05 a.m., no explanations, no arguments, and immediately the Court started trial. Defense filed all their motions late post–FSC, and even during trial. plaintiff was not provided the right to oppose them or even argue about the issues as they were never timely filed. Court considered all defense MIL’s, and ruled on everything, no oral argument, five minutes after 9 a.m. The lawyers were provided no explanation of how the Court wanted evidence received, how the Court would rule on any issue during trial beyond the scant MIL rulings on one page handed to counsel at 9:05 that day (jury came in at 9:15 – neither party was warned). Throughout the trial the Court ruled in a belligerent and forceful way, tried to rush the trial to a quick conclusion." 

Plaintiff counsel further says that the Court excluded negligence per se instructions and arguments from plaintiff’s case; that the Court upheld every defense “Kennemur” objection, without a record and without explanation, and sharply  criticized  plaintiff's counsel repeatedly in open court.