Brain And Spinal Cord Injury Results

Brain And Spinal Cord Injury Results

Our Winning Record in Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Cases


The following results were dependent on the facts of that case. The results of other cases will differ if based on different facts.

Our Client v. Gustine Unified School District, Amy Sanchez and Teodoro Cardoso

$17.5 Million Settlement

Our client (age 17) suffered a severe traumatic brain injury on July 4, 2008 when she fell from the bed of a traveling pickup truck and violently struck her head against the roadway. She had just finished practice with her Gustine High School cheerleading team when her coach, Amy Sanchez, instructed her cheerleading squad to ride in the pickup to go to the Gustine Fourth of July Parade, where they were going to participate.

Amy Sanchez, an employee of the Gustine Unified School District (the District), asked her cheerleaders to find someone with a pickup truck who would drive them in the parade. One of the cheerleaders arranged for her boyfriend, Teodoro Cardoso, to drive.

Mr. Cardoso, an uninsured, 17-year-old high school student, showed up at Ms. Sanchez’ house on the morning of July 4, 2008 driving his brother’s 2001 Chevy pickup truck. After the cheerleaders practiced their cheer, Ms. Sanchez instructed the 12 cheerleaders to sit in their formation in the back of the pickup truck to ride to the parade. Our client sat on a hay bale in the middle of the bed of the truck. Two cheerleaders and their coach sat on the open tailgate.

Mr. Cardoso started the vehicle and proceeded less than a hundred feet before three cheerleaders, including our client, and their coach, Ms. Sanchez, fell out of the back of the truck. Ms. Sanchez testified that it felt as if Mr. Cardoso accelerated too quickly and they simply could not hang on. Other witnesses testified that there was a dip in the road and that, along with the acceleration, is what caused the girls to fall.

Our client suffered a skull fracture (suboccipital and occipital fracture) and a devastating traumatic brain injury in the incident. The impact to the back of her head propelled her brain forward into the rough lining of her frontal skull contusing the frontal and temporal lobes resulting in bleeding, which is known as a contrecoup injury because the site of the injury is on the opposite side of the head from the initial blow (i.e., coup).

The initial bleeds blossomed into more serious bleeding and brain swelling. This necessitated air transfer to Children’s Hospital of Oakland for surgery to remove the frontal skull to allow the decompression of the brain tissue being compressed by bleeding and swelling. More specifically, our client had a decompressive bifrontal and left temporal craniectomy (skull flap removed) with removal of the blood clots and placement of ICP monitor to measure intracranial pressure.

Several weeks later the doctors replaced the removed skull – a cranioplasty procedure. Our client then transferred to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) for rehabilitation.

While an in-patient at SCVMC, our client developed a MRSA infection from the craniotomy. She then underwent a bifrontal craniectomy to remove the bone flap infected with MRSA. She also had a serious reaction to the antibiotics prescribed to combat the infection.

Our client experienced additional set backs when she developed status epilepticus – a continuous or rapidly repeating seizure activity – and a sacral decubitus ulcer from being bedridden for nearly a year. Her chronic MRSA infection then led to septic shock and an emergent respiratory failure.

Our client began to make great strides in her recovery until July 30, 2009, when she suffered a large right frontal intracerebral hematoma. This massive bleed represented a very serious set back for Ms. Lacayo and caused widespread encephalomalacia (dead brain tissue) and hydrocephalus, a secondary severe traumatic brain injury that destroyed what was left of her frontal lobes.

Doctors installed a ventriculoperitoneal shunt to address our client’s continuing hydrocephalus and performed a cranioplasty surgery to finally replace the frontal skull opening with a ceramic skull prosthesis. She then developed diabetes, and now is a Type 1 diabetic requiring insulin.

Our client’s cognitive deficits and paraplegia require tremendous needs, including 24-hour, seven days a week hands-on care for the remainder of her life.

Plaintiff contended that defendant GUSD was liable because its employee, Amy Sanchez, negligently supervised our client in the course and scope of her employment. Plaintiff also contended that GUSD was liable for Mr. Cardoso’s negligence as a volunteer of the school district.

Defendants GUSD and Ms. Sanchez contended plaintiff was deemed to have waived all claims under Education Code Section 35330 (the “field trip immunity”) and had a pending motion for summary judgment on that issue at the time of the mediation. Defendants also contended that our client was comparatively negligent because some of the cheerleaders testified that they saw her stand up and attempt to move to sit on the tailgate while the truck immediately before she fell. Defendant GUSD further contended that it was not responsible for Mr. Cardoso’s negligence and refused to indemnify him. Finally, defendants contended that our client had a life expectancy of only 10-20 years due to her injuries.

At a mediation, the case settled for $17.5 million.

Plaintiff’s experts:

Micky Gilbert (accident reconstruction), Denver, CO
Phyllis Agran, M.D. (pediatric injuries), Irvine, CA
Kirk Hunter (school transportation), Caruthers, CA
Deborah Doherty, M.D. (physical medicine), Kentfield, CA
Bob Knight, M.D. (neurologist), Berkeley, CA
Claude Munday, PhD. (neuropsychologist), Oakland, CA
Alicia Gean, M.D. (neuroradiologist), San Francisco, CA
Sharon Grandinette (education specialist), Redondo Beach, CA
Carol Hyland (life care planning), Lafayette, CA
Peter Formuzis, PhD. (economist), Santa Ana, CA
Doug Arnest (animations), Englewood, CO
Keiko and Rob Feldman (video), Pasadena, CA

Defense experts:

Joseph Capell, M.D. (physical medicine), Fresno, CA
Karen Aznavoorian (life care planning), Fresno, CA
Randall Epperson, M.D. (neuropsychology), Modesto, CA
Kurt Miller, M.D. (neurologist), Fresno, CA

Brain Injuries

Our client v. Major Power Utility Company
Our client was a search and rescue volunteer for a California Sheriff’s Department.
Confidential Amount

She responded to am emergency on the edge of a forest in South Lake Tahoe, California. It was dusk in the summer and she was preparing to go into the wilderness to rescue an injured hiker. While she was cleaning out her eye contacts at the search and rescue truck, a fellow volunteer was raising the radio antenna for communication purposes. He did not look upward before he raised the 30 foot antenna. Unfortunately it touched a 60,000 KV uninsulated power line. This caused high voltage to surge back to the truck with our client was touching The voltage went into her left arm and exited through her left foot causing serious 3rd degree burns. She was electrocuted and stopped breathing. Fortunately, her fellow volunteers knew CPR and brought her back to life after several minutes. As a result she sustained permanent brain damage due to loss of oxygen and she had to have a good portion of her left foot amputated. The case settled against the power utility company for a confidential sum.

Our Client v. Golfer and Golf Camp

$5,100,000 Settlement and Confidential Settlement
Alameda County Superior Court

Our young client attended a Nike Golf Camp in Berkeley and was struck in the head with a Big Bertha golf club by a fellow golf student. The blow crushed our client’s skull, causing a severe traumatic brain injury. At the time of the incident the foursome of student golfers, ranging from 12-14 years old, was left unsupervised by the golf camp, operated by American Golf Corporation. Our client underwent an emergency decompressive craniectomy that removed the fractured brain fragments and exposed his brain to relieve the swelling. This treatment prevented further brain damage. Eventually, doctors implanted a computer-designed acrylic skull prosthesis to close the defect in his skull. Our client settled with the fellow golf student for $5.1 million, the policy limits of his homeowner’s coverage, and the case proceeded to trial against the remaining defendants. Before jury selection the remainder of the case settled for an undisclosed amount.

Our Client v. Defendant Driver
$5 Million Settlement
Humboldt County Superior Court

Our client, age 23, was broadsided in an automobile collision north of Eureka, California. She pulled out in front of a passing car and the other vehicle struck the driver’s side door at a high rate of speed. Our client sustained a depressed skull fracture over the left parietal lobe of the brain that caused bleeding and also generated swelling. She also suffered an insult to her brain from lack of oxygen for some period of time. Her brain injury resulted in a cognitive loss and significant deficits in her speech. In addition to her brain injuries, our client sustained major orthopedic injuries that were not promptly diagnosed because the attending neurosurgeon at the hospital failed to order X-rays of other parts of her body because he said he was focusing solely on her head injury.

Our Client v. St. Bernard’s High School
$850,000 Settlement
Humboldt County Superior Court

This incident occurred during fall practice for high school football at St. Bernard’s High School, a Catholic high school in Eureka, California. Our client sustained a brain injury when he was performing tackling drills under the supervision of a school coach. Our client was injured when he was “face tackling” another player. We argued that face tackling is an illegal and dangerous tackling method because it increases the risk of head and neck injury. Defendant argued that the tackling method was acceptable and that our client assumed the risk of injury by participating in the contact sport of tackle football.

Our Client v. Owner of Industrial Dryer
Confidential Settlement
San Joaquin County Superior Court

Our client, a mechanic working on an industrial dryer, sustained a head injury when he was struck by some moving parts when he mistakenly activated the machine. The attending emergency room physician failed to obtain imaging studies of our client’s head, and thus failed to diagnose and treat an epidural hematoma. The untreated brain bleed resulted in serious brain damage, including cognitive loss and speech deficits.

Our Client v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals
Confidential Settlement

Our clients took their 23-year-old disabled son to Kaiser Vallejo’s emergency room to treat his prolonged nausea and vomiting. He had a condition called Friedreich’s ataxia that attacks the central nervous system and he was confined to a wheelchair. The Kaiser emergency room staff did not immediately admit him and did not monitor his status after he was admitted. He was extremely dehydrated and did not receive IV fluids. His heart rate became elevated. When Kaiser’s staff eventually recognized the extent of the emergency, they administered medication that drove his blood pressure down to a hypotensive level, depriving his brain of oxygen. He sustained a hypoxic brain injury and went into a semi-vegetative state. Our client family settled their wrongful death medical malpractice with Kaiser for a confidential amount.

Our Minor Client v. Defendant Driver
Confidential Settlement

Our client, a young child riding in a child seat in an automobile, struck his head in a serious collision. His closed head injury resulted in a brain bled that blocked cerebrospinal fluid flowing through his left ventricle and caused hydrocephalus. This necessitated the insertion of a shunt to drain the fluid to prevent pressure from the expanding ventricle from pressing against adjacent brain tissue.

Our Client v. Target Stores, Inc. and Academy Broadway, Inc.
$671,000 Jury Verdict
Alameda County Superior Court

Our client and his wife decided to go camping for Memorial Day in Hope Valley just south of Lake Tahoe. It was the couple’s anniversary so as a gift they purchased a new canvas cabin tent from Target Stores in Dublin, California. The tent was made in China but it was designed, assembled and marketed by a Smithtown, New York, company named Academy Broadway Inc.

Our client set up the tent next to a quiet stream and used the metal stakes that came with the tent to anchor it. There were approximately 14 stakes and they were V shaped and 6 inches long. The tent had a floor and a zip-up window and door. The tent also came with an attached canopy that was held up by poles and anchored by stakes.

While our client was cooking breakfast beneath the adjacent canopy a strong gust of wind came up and the canopy collapsed. He turned around and to his amazement the entire tent was airborne, with his wife in it. She had stayed in the tent and had zipped up all the openings to take a sponge bath. She weighed over 150 pounds and the other material in the tent weighed at least another 100 pounds or more. The tent went about 60 feet into the air before landing on some nearby rocks. The wind had uprooted all of the tent stakes from the ground.

He ran to the rent and found his wife unconscious and bleeding from her ears. It took more than an hour for emergency vehicles to arrive to treat her. She was alive when EMTs arrived but died of a massive head injury shortly after she got to the hospital.

Our injury attorneys argued that the tent was defective in design because its stakes were too short and were of the wrong design. We conducted extensive discovery and found that Target’s replacement stakes were considerably longer and better shaped to retain the tent. Furthermore, the manufacturer had never really “designed” the tent for wind and had no idea how it would perform in windy conditions. Our firm retained a New Jersey tensile architect as an expert. He testified that the tent was defective.

The defense argued that the tent was not defective and that the wind could not have lifted the tent straight up in the air as our client described. The company’s attorneys argued that the number, quality and design of the stakes were adequate. It also argued that a large dust devil uprooted the tent.

The jury held for our client. This is the only such case of its kind in the country. The verdict got the attention of the tent industry and it now realizes that tent designers must consider the effect of wind (e.g. lift) on tent structures. Prior to this case, tensile architects had considered the effect of wind in the design of larger structures like the Hubert Humphrey dome in Minneapolis and the Denver Airport but most tent manufacturers had not.

Spinal Injuries

Our Client v. City of Walnut Creek
$27.75 Million Verdict
Contra Costa County Superior Court

Our client was a 20-year-old state diving champion who was rendered a quadriplegic when he collided with a synchronized swimmer during diving practice in a public pool. The City of Walnut Creek, owner and operator of the pool, rented its dive pool to a diving team and a synchronized swimming team to hold practices at the same time without any means of separating the two inconsistent uses. The diver did not see a 15-year-old synchronized swimmer push off the wall under the diving board toward his landing area just as he began his dive. The pool now uses floating lane lines to separate the two groups. The verdict was identified as the 12th largest in California and the 67th largest in the United States in 2003.

Our Client v. State of California
$5.5 Million Settlement
Marin County Superior Court

Our client was a passenger in a new Mazda Miata driven by his girlfriend, heading to Stinson Beach from San Francisco on a clear and sunny day. From Stinson Beach, they drove north on state Route 1 toward the Point Reyes Lighthouse. The driver saw that the speed limit increased from 35 mph to 55 mph just north of Olema. The driver increased her speed to approximately 60-65 mph in the straightaway following the 55 mph speed limit sign. Then, within 1200 feet of the 55 mph speed limit sign, the driver came upon a curve in the road.

The driver lost control of the Miata while attempting to negotiate the curve. The Miata left the roadway, went up an adjacent embankment, and rolled one and one half times. It landed upside down back on the roadway. The driver admitted to the CHP that she was going “too fast” for the curve at 60-65 mph.

The airbags deployed in the incident and the seat belts remained fastened on both the driver and the passenger as they came to rest upside down in the vehicle. The driver was able to unfasten her seat belt and remove herself from the car. She sustained a laceration on her head. Our client suffered fractures to his C4-6 vertebrae, rendering him quadriplegic. He is confined to a wheelchair and has virtually no use of his arms and legs.

The state of California owns state Route 1. Although it is unknown when this portion of state Route 1 was originally designed or constructed, Caltrans widened the original 18-foot, two-lane road to a 32-foot wide road in the early 1980s.

We brought a case against the state of California for a dangerous condition of public property (Government Code §835). Our experts in traffic engineering testified that the curve in issue has an undisputed design speed of 35 mph based on the radius of curvature. All other geometric measurements of the curve indicated that it was a 35 mph curve. However, there was no sign in advance of the curve warning that it was only a 35 mph curve. Caltrans posted a 55 mph speed limit sign 1200 feet before the curve without providing any warning to motorists of the curve’s limitations.

Our experts further stated that the curve’s radius, length, and super-elevation violated Caltrans’ standards, and that it was compound in nature (it had a diminishing radius).

The state claimed that only one similar incident had occurred seven years before this incident and that more than three million vehicles safely negotiated the curve without incident between that accident and this one. Thus, the curve could not be dangerous to those using due care and the state had no notice of any condition that was dangerous. It also claimed that the curve was readily apparent and clearly visible to approaching motorists, so no warning sign was necessary. It further claimed that the single vehicle rollover was solely caused by the negligence of the driver.

After the jury deliberated for a week, our client reached a settlement with the state of California for $5.5 million

Our Client v. Sand Hill Ranch Motocross Park, et al.
$3,043,491 Arbitration Award for Back Injuries
Contra Costa County Superior Court

Our client paid a $20 fee to ride his dirt bike at Sand Hill Ranch Motocross Park in Brentwood, California, and signed a release that waived many of his rights to make claims against the park. He began to ride his motorcycle on Sand Hill Ranch’s 40 acres of trails. He took one trail that unknowingly led him off Sand Hill Ranch’s property and onto the property of a neighbor, the Brentwood Rod and Gun Club. That trail led to a 25-foot man-made cliff, the visibility of which was obscured by a tree. Our client rode his dirt bike around the tree at approximately 20 mph, and unsuspectingly drove off the cliff. He landed on several large boulders at the base of the cliff.

As a result, our client suffered serious injuries, including a comminuted fracture of his right wrist and a T7 burst fracture. He underwent spinal surgery to install hardware to fuse T3-T9. He missed 15 months from his employment.

We claimed negligence and gross negligence against Sand Hill Ranch Motocross Park and the Brentwood Rod and Gun Club for failing to warn our client about the boundaries of the motocross facility and the presence of the dangerous cliff.

Defendants contended 1) that the release signed by our client barred his claim, 2) that our client assumed the risk of injury by participating in motocross as a sporting activity, 3) that our client negligently caused his injuries, and 4) that recreational immunity under Civil Code Section 846 also barred our claim.

On the eve of trial, our client settled with the Brentwood Rod and Gun Club and the trucking company that dumped the bounders at the base of the cliff for a combined $775,000 and agreed to binding arbitration with the remaining defendant. The arbitrator awarded our client $2,268,491 in damages against Sand Hill Ranch Motocross Park.

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For more information or to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced lawyer, contact Abramson Smith Waldsmith, LLP. Or call us at 415-421-7995 or toll free at 888-745-2988.

Jeffrey R. Smith

Jeffrey R. Smith

Managing Partner

Robert B. Waldsmith

Robert J. Waldsmith

Partner, 1999

William B. Smith

William B. Smith

Partner, 1978

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