Driver ran intersection without working stoplights Driver ran intersection without working stoplights

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18-Wheeler Collision




Jury Verdict



Jury Verdict

Driver ran intersection without working stoplights



Intersection — Multiple Impact — Multiple Vehicle

Driver ran intersection without working stoplights, plaintiff said




Russell Gammel
v. Wendy Vazquez-Buezo,
No. 2015-13748


Harris County District Court, 295th


Donna Roth



Plaintiff Attorney(s)
Eric D. Nielsen (lead), The Nielsen
Law Firm, P.C., Houston, TX
Rasheed Taylor,
Taylor Law Firm,
Houston, TX
Defense Attorney(s)
Michael T. Sprague,
Sprague & Diamond, P.C.,
Houston, TX
Facts & Allegations

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.

Wendy Vazquez-Buezo was driving on the service road and did not stop at the intersection. Her car’s front end and the left front of Gammel’s pickup truck collided, and the pickup truck was pushed into a car that was in the lane to his right. Gammel claimed multiple injuries.

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.

Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award $134,511.74 for past medical expenses; $150,000 to $200,000 for future medical expenses;, $1, $5 or even $20 per waking hour for past physical pain; and $1, $5 or even $20 per waking hour for past physical impairment.

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.

Russell Gammel

$134,512 past medical cost
$211,000 future medical cost
$50,000 past physical impairment
$55,000 past physical pain

Demand Offer

$30,000 (insurance coverage’s limit)
Offer $7,800


State Farm Insurance Cos.

Trial Details

Trial Deliberations: 3 hours
Jury Vote: 12-0
Jury Composition: 6 male, 6 female

Plaintiff Expert(s)

Nilesh Kotecha, M.D.,
Houston, TX

Defense Expert(s)

Martin Bloom, M.D.,
orthopedic surgery,
Houston, TX
(videotaped testimony presented)

Editor’s Note:This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel. –John Schneider