Texas Verdicts

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Plaintiff claimed aggravation of pre-existing lumbar condition

Amount:

$650,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Texas

Venue:

Harris County

Court:

Harris County District Court, 151st

Injury Type(s):

leg; back-sprain, lumbar;
back-strain, lumbar;
back-nerve impingement ; back-spondylolisthesis; back-herniated disc (herniated disc at L5-S1), lumbar(herniated disc at L5-S1);
head-headaches; neck-sprain, cervical;
neck-strain, cervical;
neck-nerve impingement; neck-spondylolisthesis; other-laceration; other-soft tissue; other-unconsciousness; other-physical therapy; other-epidural injections; other-aggravation of pre-existing condition; neurological-nerve impingement

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle – Passenger, Intersection, Multiple Impact, Multiple Vehicle, Question of Lights

Case Name:

Milad Attalla, Individually and as Next Friend of James Attalla, a Minor v. Randall Scott Hulsey,
No. 2014-34758

Date:

November 14, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

James Attalla (Male, 8 Years), 

Milad Attalla (Male, 46 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Eric D. Nielsen;
The Nielsen Law Firm, P.C.;
Houston,
TX,
for
James Attalla, Milad Attalla ■ Daniel Cienfuegos Jr.;
The Nielsen Law Firm, P.C.;
Houston,
TX,
for
James Attalla, Milad Attalla

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Emad Bishai; M.D.; Pain Management; The Woodlands,
TX called by:
Eric D. Nielsen, Daniel Cienfuegos Jr. ■ Howard Cotler; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Houston,
TX called by:
Eric D. Nielsen, Daniel Cienfuegos Jr.

Defendant(s):

Randall Scott Hulsey

Defense Attorney(s):

Theresa C. Snodgrass;
Meynier & Matte;
Houston,
TX,
for
Randall Scott Hulsey

Insurer(s):

Progressive Casualty Insurance Co.

Facts:

On Feb. 23, 2013, plaintiff Milad Attalla, 46, a pharmacist and pharmacy owner, was driving a sedan with his son, plaintiff James Attalla, 8, and they were heading east on Farm to Market Road 529 in Harris County. Attalla stopped next to a sport utility vehicle at Queenston Boulevard. The intersection was controlled by a stop light. Randall Scott Hulsey was driving south on Queenston Boulevard in a Chevrolet Suburban. Hulsey entered the intersection, struck a westbound vehicle and then struck the plaintiffs’ car and the SUV next to it. The impact to Attalla’s car also pushed it into the SUV. The only contributing factor listed on the police report was against Hulsey, for running a red light. Attalla claimed a lower back injury. The plaintiffs sued Hulsey for negligently running a red light, failing to yield the right of way, failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to control his speed, driving too fast and failing to brake or turn in time to avoid the accident. Hulsey’s son, a front-seat passenger, told police and testified (in deposition) that Hulsey’s light was red. Attalla alleged that the westbound driver entered the intersection on a green light. The police report also came into evidence. Hulsey contended that his light was yellow when he entered the intersection. According to defense counsel, the judge admitted evidence, over a defense objection, that Hulsey had liability insurance, and in addition, plaintiff’s counsel told the jury that the amount of coverage was “unlimited.”

Injury:

Attalla was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. He claimed aggravation of pre-existing, degenerative spondylolisthesis at L5-S1, along with a herniated disc at that level. He also claimed neck and back sprains and strains and was thrown into his rear-view mirror, which caused lacerations, headaches and loss of consciousness. James claimed leg pain in one leg, which resolved without treatment. Attalla underwent a lumbar MRI, which showed a disc herniation at L5-S1 compressing the L5 nerve roots bilaterally. He had pre-existing spondylolisthesis, but the records from before the accident described it as stable and unremarkable, whereas the records from after the accident described it as unstable and “grade 1.” For his lower back, his primary care doctor recommended pain medication and applying heat packs at home. However, the pain persisted, and he underwent lumbar epidural steroid injections on Sept. 5, 2013, Nov. 5, 2013, and July 11, 2014. He denied having undergone epidural steroid injections before the accident. On Oct. 17, 2013, Attalla began treating with an orthopedic surgeon, who recommended surgery at L5-S1 and postoperative rehabilitation, at a total estimated cost of $225,000. He continued treating after July 11, 2014, but the records from his subsequent treatment were ruled inadmissible. He testified that he cannot sit or stand for long periods. He was a deacon at his church and used to perform liturgies lasting three to four hours, but can no longer do so and can only attend shorter services now, he said. He also can no longer participate in zip-lining or similar vacation activities. For his neck and back injuries other than at L5-S1, Attalla underwent physical therapy from April 30 to June 5. Those injuries resolved. Attalla sought $225,000 for future medical bills; $50,000 for past physical pain and mental anguish; $200,000 for future physical pain and mental anguish; $50,000 for past physical impairment; and $200,000 for future physical impairment. James sought $25,000 for past physical pain and mental anguish. The defense argued that Attalla’s lower back problems were wholly pre-existing. The defense argued that Attalla was lying about not having undergone epidural steroid injections in the past. The treating surgeon’s operative report said he had undergone a prior epidural steroid injection. Plaintiff’s counsel countered that the statement in this report was erroneous. Counsel noted that it conflicted with the history Attalla had given to the treating surgeon two days before this doctor’s operative report. The defense argued that Attalla sought no treatment after July 11, 2014, but after objection by plaintiffs’ counsel, the judge instructed the jury to disregard this argument. The defense suggested an award of zero if the jury reached the damages question.

Result:

The jury found Hulsey negligent and awarded $650,000 to Attalla, but zero to his son.

Milad Attalla: $225,000 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $25,000 Personal Injury: Past Physical Impairment; $200,000 Personal Injury: Future Physical Impairment; $25,000 Personal Injury: past physical pain and mental anguish; $175,000 Personal Injury: future physical pain and mental anguish

Trial Information:

Judge:

Mike Engelhart

Demand:

$358,000

Offer:

$35,000

Trial Length:

3
 days

Trial Deliberations:

3
 hours

Jury Vote:

12-0

Jury Composition:

6 male/ 6 female; 7 black/ 1 Middle Eastern/ 2 Hispanic/ 1 white/ 1 Asian

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs’ and defense counsel.