Driver ran intersection without working stoplights
Intersection — Multiple Impact — Multiple Vehicle
Driver ran intersection without working stoplights, plaintiff said
v. Wendy Vazquez-Buezo,
Harris County District Court, 295th
Law Firm, P.C., Houston, TX
Taylor Law Firm,
Sprague & Diamond, P.C.,
On Aug. 26, 2013, plaintiff Russell Gammel, 44, a high school’s physical education teacher and athletics coach, was driving north on Gessner Road, approaching the eastbound Northwest Freeway service road, in Houston. All the traffic lights were out.
Gammel sued Vazquez-Buezo. Gammel alleged that Vazquez-Buezo was negligent in the operation of her vehicle.
Gammel testified that he stopped and waited his turn before proceeding into the intersection. The investigating police officer faulted Vazquez-Buezo for failing to yield the right of way.
Vazquez-Buezo testified that she was behind a box truck and did not realize the lights were out and that, if she had known, she would have stopped. Defense counsel argued that, because Gammel knew the lights were out and Vazquez-Buezo did not, Gammel was responsible for the accident.
aggravation of pre-existing condition; annular tear; back; concussion; head; headaches; neurectomy; physical therapy
Gammel went by ambulance to an emergency room. He complained of head, neck and back pain. He underwent minor treatment.
Gammel ultimately claimed that he suffered a concussion, a protrusion or herniation and annular tear of the L4-5 intervertebral disc, and an aggravation of a prior neck injury. Gammel further claimed that the annular tear effaced the thecal sac, which houses nerve roots. Other than the hospital visit, he did not seek treatment of his head.
Gammel immediately started physical therapy, which lasted until Oct. 28, 2013.
In late 2015, Gammel started seeing a neurosurgeon, who performed medial branch blocks at L4-5 on May 13, 2016, and an endoscopic neurectomy of four nerves at L4-5 on July 5, 2016. Gammel’s last visit to the neurosurgeon was on Aug. 31, 2016. The doctor recommended an L4-5 fusion, which he estimated would cost $150,000 to $200,000.
The jury charge also included future physical pain and future physical impairment. The defense expert, an orthopedic surgeon, opined that Gammel sustained only cervical and lumbar sprains and strains and that these injuries should have healed in two to three months.
Defense counsel questioned whether the accident caused Gammel’s complaints. He noted that Gammel fell off the gurney in the ambulance during transport. Also, Gammel had sustained a neck injury playing college football. Defense counsel claimed that that injury had resulted in Gammel quitting football and giving up a scholarship.
Defense counsel argued that, if the jury reached damages, it should award $7,113.15, for the ambulance bill and hospital visit, and no other damages.
The jury found that Vazquez-Buezo was liable for the accident. It determined that Gammel’s damages totaled $450,512.
$134,512 past medical cost
$211,000 future medical cost
$50,000 past physical impairment
$55,000 past physical pain
$30,000 (insurance coverage’s limit)
State Farm Insurance Cos.
Trial Deliberations: 3 hours
Jury Vote: 12-0
Jury Composition: 6 male, 6 female
Nilesh Kotecha, M.D.,
Martin Bloom, M.D.,
(videotaped testimony presented)
Editor’s Note:This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel. –John Schneider