MICHELLE M. OREGAN AND CHRISTINE CAMINITA
LAURA N. CASHIO, USAA INSURANCE AGENCY, INC., STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANY, AND SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY
APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 712-413, DIVISION
"E" HONORABLE JOHN J. MOLAISON, JR., JUDGE
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, CHRISTINE CAMINITA George B.
Recile Matthew A. Sherman.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, LAURA N. CASHIO AND UNITED
SERVICES AUTOMOBLE ASSOCIATION Michael R. Sistrunk Donna B.
Wood Lynda A. Tafaro Amanda L. Sullivan.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY
James J. Kokemor.
composed of Marc E. Johnson, Robert M. Murphy, and Hans J.
E. JOHNSON, JUDGE
a personal injury case arising out of a motor vehicle
accident in which Plaintiff, Christine Caminita, appeals the
jury verdict awarding $3, 719.20 in her favor. For the
following reasons, we affirm.
& PROCEDURAL HISTORY
February 13, 2012, Plaintiff was a front seat passenger in a
vehicle driven by Michelle Oregan that was struck from behind
by a car driven by Defendant, Laura Cashio. According to
trial testimony, Plaintiff's vehicle was stopped in
traffic at a red light on West Napoleon Ave. in Metairie near
the intersection of Clearview Parkway when Defendant ran into
the back of it. Defendant testified that she too was stopped
in traffic and had waited through two light cycles. Defendant
stated that the traffic started to move and she let her foot
off the brake and hit the vehicle in front of her.
police were called and an accident report was generated. An
ambulance responded to the scene but was not needed. Ms.
Oregan took Plaintiff to Kenner Regional Hospital upon
leaving the accident scene after stopping by her house to get
Plaintiff's identification. Plaintiff testified that she
immediately felt pain in her neck and back after the
accident. At the hospital, Plaintiff reported neck and back
pain. She indicated to the emergency room doctor that she did
not need additional pain medication because she was currently
taking pain medication for a preexisting chronic back
who was 31 years old at the time of the accident, was
actively treating for low back pain prior to the accident.
She was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 12 years old.
She had surgery in 1993, at the age of 13, to place a rod in
her back. The rod later broke, requiring a second surgery in
2003 that resulted in a fusion of her back from the T12
through L3 level. Despite the surgery, Plaintiff continued to
suffer with back pain. That same year, while Plaintiff was in
a back brace, she was involved in an automobile accident
where she was struck in an intersection after a car ran a red
light and injured her neck. In 2008, Plaintiff had a slip and
fall accident where she injured her knee and back. In 2009, a
CT of her lumbar spine showed an L4-5 disc protrusion and
L5-S1 disc bulge.
treated with various doctors in 2010 and 2011 for chronic
back pain and radiating pain into her legs. A 2011 lumbar MRI
showed disc abnormalities at L5-S1. Plaintiff underwent a
discogram in May 2011, which indicated her L4-5 disc was
symptomatic. At that time, her treating orthopedic surgeon,
Dr. James Butler, recommended surgery to fuse the L4-5 level
and to possibly re-attempt to fuse the L1-2 level, but
Plaintiff never had the surgery. At the time of the accident,
Plaintiff was treating with a pain management specialist and
was taking a significant amount of pain medication.
March 21, 2012, one month after the February 13, 2012
accident at issue in this case, Plaintiff was involved in
another motor vehicle accident in which she was again
rear-ended. She subsequently treated with Dr. Rand Voorhies,
a neurosurgeon, after being referred to him by her attorney
for a second medical opinion. Dr. Voorhies ordered several
tests, including an MRI and a SPECT scan, which is a type of
bone scan that detects areas of increased metabolic activity.
Dr. Voorhies interpreted the lumbar SPECT scan as abnormal,
showing increased activity at L5-S1 and her sacroiliac joints
("SI joints"), mostly on the left side. He
ultimately concluded that Plaintiff's main problem was
her SI joints, predominantly the one on the left side. On
January 29, 2013, Plaintiff underwent surgery to her left SI
joint. According to Dr. Voorhies, Plaintiff's SI joint
pain was caused by the February 13, 2012 accident, even
though he did not examine Plaintiff until after both the
February and March 2012 accidents. He explained that his
opinion regarding causation was based solely on
Plaintiff's history and the fact she related that her SI
joint pain started after the February accident. Dr. Voorhies
further indicated that Plaintiff would likely require future
surgery on her right SI joint.
filed the instant lawsuit on March 14, 2012, one month after
the February accident but before the March accident against
Defendant; USAA Casualty Insurance Co., as Defendant's
automobile liability insurer; State Farm Insurance Company,
as the uninsured/underinsured motorist ("UM/UIM")
carrier for Ms. Oregan; and General Insurance Company of
America,  as Plaintiff's own UM/UIM carrier,
seeking damages for injuries she allegedly sustained in the
accident. After a three-day trial, a jury found that
Plaintiff was injured in the February 13, 2012 accident and
awarded her $2, 000 for pain and suffering and $1, 719.20 for
past medical expenses. The trial court signed a judgment to
that effect on September 18, 2014. An amended judgment was
signed on March 16, 2016, adding the necessary decretal
language identifying the defendants against whom the judgment
was rendered. It is from the amended judgment that
Plaintiff now appeals.
essentially raises two issues on appeal. First, she contends
that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury
on the presumption of causation set forth in Housley v.
Cerise, 579 So.2d 973 (La. 1991). Second, Plaintiff
argues that the jury verdict is ambiguous and, therefore, an
additur or new trial is required. Plaintiff maintains the
verdict is susceptible of conflicting interpretation because
it is unclear whether the jury apportioned fault between the
Charge - Housley ...