After minor-impact accident at traffic light, plaintiff claims she was an "eggshell" plaintiff but defense says the accident did not aggravate pre-existing condition; that the case was "built up."
- Case Name: Karen Charlton v. Abelicia Ardiano Miranda
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / 20STCV49698
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, January 17, 2023
- Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, December 30, 2020
- Type of Case: Vehicles - Auto vs. Auto, Vehicles – rear-ender
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Graciela L. Freixes
Plaintiffs: Karen Charlton
Defendants: Abelicia Ardiano Miranda
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $30,000
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 6 days
- Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 hours
- Jury Polls: 9-3: Past economic damages; 10-2: Past non-economic damages; 12-0: Future non-economic damages.
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defendant filed a motion to tax plaintiff's costs.
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Nguyen Theam Lawyers, LLP by Minh Nguyen, Arnold Reed and Jason Doucette, Long Beach.
Seck Law, P.C. by Ibiere Seck, Los Angeles.
Attorney for the Defendant:
Gates, Gonter, Guy, Proudfoot & Muench, LLP by Gina Y. Kandarian-Stein and Raquel E. Solis, Irvine.
Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Mark Spoonamore, M.D., spine surgery, Los Angeles.
Jonathan Berkowitz, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Los Angeles.
Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Christopher Furbish, accident reconstruction.
Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
Plaintiff is a 62-year-old actress and singer. Plaintiff and defendant were involved in a rear-end accident, which occurred on August 19, 2019 on El Toro Road in Laguna Hills. Plaintiff alleged she was stopped at a red light when she was rear-ended by defendant's vehicle and that plaintiff's vehicle was pushed into the car in front of her. Defendant testified that she took her foot off of the brake and rolled into the back of plaintiff's vehicle. The impact was minimal.
Plaintiff received epidural injections to the cervical spine and she ultimately underwent a C5-6 and C6-7 discectomy and fusion. Plaintiff also underwent surgery to repair a biceps tendon tear.
Plaintiff testified that she was stopped at the time of the impact and that her foot was pressing hard on the brake.
Plaintiff argued the neck surgery and the shoulder surgery were necessary due to the accident on August 19, 2019. She testified that the cervical spine surgery damaged her vocal cords and that she had to attend voice therapy at USC Keck. She told the jury that since the accident, she has been unable to act or sing.
Plaintiff's biomechanic expert admitted on cross that there was not enough force to cause a structural injury to the spine, but that the accident could have made plaintiff's prior condition in the cervical spine worse. He also testified there was sufficient force to cause plaintiff's shoulder injury. Dr. Berkowitz testified that plaintiff's shoulder surgery was appropriate. Dr. Spoonamore performed plaintiff's cervical spine surgery.
Defendant argued that plaintiff’s neck surgery and shoulder surgery were not related to the subject accident. Defendant also argued that although plaintiff ultimately received treatment and surgery from physicians at USC Keck Medicine, her treatment began as attorney-referred treatment on a lien.
Defendant told the jury that plaintiff had longstanding degenerative changes in the spine and shoulder that were not made worse by the subject accident. Defendant argued that this was a minor “fender bender” and that there was no way plaintiff was injured; that there was no way plaintiff’s condition was made worse by the subject accident.
As to lost income, defendant argued to the jury that plaintiff did not provide any evidence of auditions or performances that plaintiff did in the six months to one year before the fender bender. Defendant also argued that after the accident, none of plaintiff’s doctors ever told plaintiff that she could not work, and that her doctors never even put any restrictions on plaintiff’s work. Plaintiff admitted on cross-examination that she was never on disability after this accident. Plaintiff also told the jury that prior to acting, she worked “hands on” in construction and she admitted on cross-examination that this work was physically intensive and that she was building houses.
Plaintiff admitted on cross-examination that she did not call the police at the scene and she did not call 911. She also admitted that the air bags in her car did not go off and that she felt the seatbelt restrain her “tightly.” Plaintiff confirmed that she denied an ambulance at the scene. She did not go to the hospital on the day of the accident and she did not later go to a hospital.
Plaintiff testified that she went to a medical facility on the day of the accident, but she left and went to her friend’s house to sleep. She also told the jury that her pain was increasing while she was sitting at the medical facility. Defendant argued to the jury that plaintiff left the medical facility because nothing was wrong with her. Plaintiff admitted that she was seeing a chiropractor, a massage therapist and an acupuncturist before the accident and that she was seeing these people for her “whole skeletal system.”
Defendant showed the jury that before plaintiff received treatment at USC, her prior attorney referred plaintiff to several medical providers, chiropractors, who treated plaintiff on a lien.
Dr. Spoonamore admitted that plaintiff's neck MRI showed longstanding degenerative changes and that these changes are the same changes you would expect to see in a woman of plaintiff's age. He also admitted that he sent plaintiff for an EMG/NCV that did not show radiculopathy. All of Dr. Spoonamore's exams of plaintiff were normal. He testified plaintiff did not need future treatment.
Plaintiff was in a subsequent accident one year later (before subject trial). She admitted her body was thrown to the right and hit the console in the subsequent accident.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Neck and shoulder injuries. C5-6 C6-7 discectomy and fusion biceps tendon repair.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Stipulated damages were $95,593.17. Actual medical specials were $266,139.42.
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $1,250,000