Rear-ender aggravates plaintiff's pre-existing, asymptomatic spine condition. $34K. San Diego County.


Plaintiff treats through Workers' Comp but says accident aggravated a preexisting condition. Plaintiff beats CCP 998.

The Case

  • Case Name: Smith v. Drenning
  • Court and Case Number: San Diego Superior Court / 37-2018-00021726-CU-PA-CTL
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, August 19, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, May 01, 2018
  • Type of Case: MIST (Minor impact, soft tissue), Negligence, Vehicles - Auto vs. Auto, Vehicles – rear-ender
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Carolyn Caeitti
  • Plaintiffs:
    Catherine Smith
  • Defendants:
    Joseph Drenning
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $34,524.29
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 0%
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical expenses: $4,524.29 

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $25,000


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 4 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 4 hours
  • Jury Polls: 12-0 economic damages; 9-3 non-economic damages

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Eugene Bruno & Associates by Bassem N. Salem and Amir M. Shoar, San Diego.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Law Offices of Kim L. Bensen by Jay Nunez, Glendale.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Kamshad Raiszadeh, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Richard Greenfield, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The case arises from a three-vehicle rear-end crash that happened in August 2016. Plaintiff was in the first vehicle, which had very little visible damage, other than a scuff mark.

    Plaintiff, 33 years of age, had a left-sided herniation at L4-5 showing on a CT taken 7 weeks after the incident. She treated through workers' comp three months later with Kamshad Raiszadeh and did some PT. That was the extent of treatment. Raiszadeh recommended ESI but plaintiff declined. She was deemed permanent and stationary in February 2017, six months post-incident with some ongoing low back pain with radiculopathy.

    In April 2017, plaintiff had another workers' comp incident where a patient assaulted her and repeatedly slammed her left low back with a doorknob. She returned to Dr. Raiszadeh, who opined this incident flared up the symptoms from the original injury. She underwent an MRI that didn't show any new injury that wasn't captured on the post-crash CT and she underwent a few more sessions of PT. After four or so months, she returned back to baseline per Dr. Raiszadeh.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the collision aggravated a pre-existing, asymptomatic condition in plaintiff's lumbar spine at L4-L5, which caused permanent lumbar pain. Also, that plaintiff's subsequent injury was a temporary flare up of symptoms from the injury originally caused by the defendant.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That defendant did not cause the permanent injury, and any claims after the subsequent incident are not related to the collision.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Low back pain with radiculopathy.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $4,524.29
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $0

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $30,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $16,750

Additional Notes

Allstate's initial pre-litigation offer was $450. Allstate increased its offer to $1,500 upon filing. Plaintiff served a CCP 998 for the policy limit of $30,000 in 2018. The defense sent a CCP 998 offer one week before trial for $16,750.

After opening statements and plaintiff's first witness, the defendant, Allstate offered the full policy. At the end of the week, the jury reached a verdict of $34,524.29.

Pre-judgment interest accrued on plaintiff's CCP 998 offer amounts to $13,809.72.