Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Now It Can Be Told...

THE TRIAL, PART I

Well, the judge gave us our marching orders yesterday afternoon, Tuesday, the eighth day of the trial, and the twelve-person jury retired. We reached our verdict in rather short order. We were thanked and dismissed. So the story can now be told. Hold on to your hats. The telling might last for a couple of days...

I did mention in an earlier entry that it was a personal injury case. That, according to the judge’s admonishment, was as far as I could go. The incident from which the lawsuit arose was a rear-end accident at an intersection out in the Antelope Valley. (I intend to keep names and identifying details out of this, out of respect for the privacy of the many individuals involved.) Here’s the sequence of events, as best I can recall:

On October 31, 2006, a young man, 18 years old at the time and just graduated from high school, accompanies a friend to a guitar shop to buy a piece of equipment. They part ways after making their purchase, and he leaves the store, presumably to return home. Leaving the parking lot in his 1992 Honda Accord, he makes a left turn onto a major street, and intends to make a right at the first light. Drawn up at the light in front of him is a late-model Mercedes SUV and, in a moment of inattention, he takes his foot off the brake and rams into the back of the SUV at a speed that ranges, depending on which witness you choose to believe, between three and six miles an hour. Okay, maybe a tad more, my memory may not be 100 percent accurate, but at minimal speed. The drivers turn the corner, park, and presumably exchange information. Later that evening, the SUV’s driver’s manager at work instructs him to go in for a check-up, just in case…

The accident took place two and a half years ago. A month afterwards, the SUV driver (the plaintiff in the case) is suffering lower back pain and goes in for a check-up. Another month later, he returns for more medical attention, still in pain. After a number of tests and scans, he’s faced with the choice between an epidural injection, which he’s warned might be short-lived in its effects, and surgery to repair what the doctors diagnose as a damaged disk. (I’m simplifying, I know, but I can’t make this about the medical and surgical details. They’re not my expertise, I was just a juror, listening as best I could.)

In brief, then, the plaintiff goes through three successive surgeries in the following months, the first two in the attempt to repair the disk and relieve the major nerve root that's believed to cause the pain; and because these two failed in their desired effect, a third surgery--a newly developed procedure to replace the affected disk with an artificial one. (It’s worth noting that the doctor who performed the surgeries had never before attempted the replacement. This was his first. And he has not done one since. But I’m getting ahead of myself.) In any event, none of the surgeries succeeds in fixing the problem. The plaintiff remains in debilitating pain. He can no longer work, his relationship breaks up, he can no longer spend the quality time he has always spent with his daughter by his first marriage, his life is falling apart. Understandably, he falls into depression. And he decides to sue...

(More tomorrow, friends. I plan not to bore everyone with too long an entry on one day, but when I'm done I plan to stitch the pieces together into a single narrative, which I will then post as one piece, for anyone who might prefer to read it that way. Bear with me.)

3 comments:

robin andrea said...

This is very interesting, peter. I look forward to hearing what happens and how it is resolved.

juror #8 said...

Pretty good recollection.

d said...

not guilty!