In 2011, I filed suit against the Cobb County Board of Health (and its employee) for damages caused to my client due to a rear end collision that took place in Marietta on November 23, 2009. My client was stopped on Pat Mell Road with his left turn signal activated waiting for traffic so as to turn into his driveway. My client’s roommate was outside the home and witnessed a Ford Econoline (owned by Cobb County Board of Health and operated by an employee) van slam into the rear of my client’s vehicle. The impact was so great that it broke my client’s car seat, knocked my client unconscious and propelled his vehicle 50’ from the point of impact.
My client’s roommate immediately ran after the car to the point where the vehicle had come to a rest following the crash. Upon his arrival, my client was slumped back in his seat and unable to speak. My client was taken by ambulance to the Wellstar Kennestone Hospital. After he was discharged from the hospital, my client followed up with an orthopedic surgeon on January 4, 2010. My client received conservative treatment from the provider including physical therapy and prescription medication for continuing pain in the low back that traveled down his legs.
My client underwent a magnetic resonance image test or what is commonly referred to as an “MRI” of his low back. The MRI test produced a computerized image of the internal body tissue of the low back. The MRI demonstrated a disk herniation (a protrusion of fibrous material outside of the disc in the spine) in his low back at the lumbar (low back) five sacrum (low back) one level. A herniated disc is analogous to a jelly donut that has been squeezed hard enough to allow jelly to squirt out the side. After the MRI, my client received several epidural steroid injections in his low back over the course of several months that did not provide any appreciable improvement from pain.
In July of 2011, my client underwent his first low back surgery to remove the herniated disc that was putting pressure on the nerve. Initially, the surgeon performed a laminotomy at the L5-S1 level (near the belt line). In essence, the orthopedic surgeon made an incision in my client’s low back to remove a portion of the herniated disc to create space for the nerve at that level of the spine. However, the surgeon realized that the nerve needed more space to decompress so he removed a portion of the vertebrae (bone) and took a portion of bone graft from my client’s hip and inserted it into the space formerly occupied by the disc. The surgeon next placed four screws on either side of the graft and used a plastic spacer which was secured by the screws. The hope was that the bone graft would fuse with the bony vertebrae above and below it at the L5-S1 level to prevent painful mobility of the spine.
Post surgery, my client underwent extensive physical therapy and pain medication. However, my client still experienced extensive pain in his low back and numbness in his lower extremities (legs). X-rays and a CT scan demonstrated that the surgery did not result in the fusion of the bony vertebrae at the L5-S1 level. Consequently, in September of 2012, the surgeon performed surgery to implant a temporary spinal cord stimulator so as to stimulate the nerve root in an effort to decrease pain. The stimulator did not provide appreciable pain relief and was removed within two weeks.
At this point, my client had sustained failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS), a condition in which patients have not had a successful result with back or spine surgery, and continue to have pain and symptoms after surgery. In our case, the non-fusion of the vertebrae in a low back fusion surgery was a known complication and not uncommon. Irrespective, the client decided to seek a second opinion from another orthopedic surgeon due to continued pain, loss of motion in the low back and pain with range of motion in the low back.
The second surgeon recommended a repeat surgery from the anterior (front) through the belly due to a nonunion of the bone at the fusion site from the first surgery. The surgery was performed on March 31, 2014 and involved the surgeon removing a portion of disc material at L4-L5 and using new bone graft from the hip. The surgeon also replaced the previously inserted plastic cage with a larger version. Roughly five months post surgery, my client’s low back pain had improved along with use of a bone stimulator machine that was worn around his waist. In fact, he was able to walk in a normal manner. My client underwent extensive physical therapy and diagnostic studies confirmed that a union had taken place at the L5-S1 level.
The injuries, surgeries, loss of earnings and past/present/future mental/physical pain and suffering caused a toll on my client. Further, both surgeons testified in deposition that my client may need to undergo another back surgery in the next 10-15 years due a possible weakening of the disc above the site of the surgery. Initially, I was scheduled for trial in 2013 but the judge granted the parties a continuance from the trial calendar in order for my client to undergo the second fusion surgery. The case was then placed on a trial calendar in Cobb County State Court before Judge Maria Golick in September of 2015. I had roughly fourteen (14) before and after witnesses that would testify as to the damages that my client had suffered as a result of the collision. On top of that, I took the video depositions of both surgeons, the deposition of the defendant driver and the deposition of my client’s roommate for use in evidence at trial. I also had detailed hand colored surgical poster boards that would have been presented to the jury at trial so as to walk them through the stages of treatment.
As both parties were interested in mediation, Judge Golick graciously allowed us to conduct mediation. Mediator Rex Smith at Henning Mediation in Atlanta did a fantastic job and was able to facilitate a settlement between the parties. The final settlement amount was $1.75M. There were challenges for both sides if the case went forward to trial before 12 jurors. On the Plaintiff’s side, we were trying a case against the Cobb County Board of Health in Cobb County State Court as well as tasked with meeting the burden of proof as to causation and damages. On the Defendant’s side, liability for the collision was clear and my client sustained an extensive injury and two back surgeries with medical bills exceeding $400,000.00.
If you are injured as the result of the negligence of a motorist, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately to investigate and gather evidence for your claim.
The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford have over twenty years of experience in handling the claims of Georgia accident victims caused by the negligence of motorists, and if you or your loved ones have been the victims of such an accident in Georgia, we can help you, too. Contact us today, to speak to an attorney right away. As always, the consultation is free, and there is no obligation. Call us at 404-869-6969, or use the online form. We are available to answer all your questions.