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Cooley v. Adgate

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 30, 2018

SHELLEY COOLEY Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
TIMOTHY ADGATE AND CITY OF SHREVEPORT Defendants-Appellees

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 568615 Honorable Michael Pitman, Judge

          F.Q. HOOD, JR. CHRISTOPHER C. BROUGHTON Counsel for Appellant

          WINCHELL & JOSEPH, L.L.C. By: Curtis R. Joseph, Jr. Counsel for Appellees

          Before WILLIAMS, MOORE, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          WILLIAMS, J.

         The plaintiff, Shelley Cooley, appeals a judgment awarding her $50, 000 in general damages against the defendants, Timothy Adgate and the City of Shreveport. The trial court declined to award any amount for future medical expenses, finding that the evidence of such expenses was too speculative. For the following reasons, we amend the judgment to award future medical expenses and affirm as amended.

         FACTS

         On November 2, 2012, a collision occurred when the vehicle driven by Shelley Cooley was hit from the rear by a vehicle driven by Timothy Adgate, an employee of the City of Shreveport. Following the accident, Cooley sought medical treatment for pain in her neck, back and right knee.

         In May 2013, the plaintiff, Shelley Cooley, filed a petition for damages against the defendants, Timothy Adgate and the City of Shreveport. The parties stipulated that the City was liable because Adgate was solely at fault in causing the accident while in the course and scope of his employment as a police officer. As a result, the issue for trial was the quantum of damages.

         At trial, the evidence showed that prior to the accident, Cooley had undergone lumbar surgery in 1999 and afterward had suffered from chronic, intermittent back pain. In 2011, Cooley saw Dr. Anthony Stuart regarding gastric bypass surgery, which was performed in June 2011. In treating Cooley, Dr. Stuart did not prescribe any medication for back or knee pain. After the November 2012 accident, Cooley sought treatment for neck, back and right knee pain. In December 2012 and January 2013, she saw Dr. Kamm with a complaint of low back pain radiating to her hip. Dr. Kamm prescribed anti-inflammatory and pain medication. In February 2013, Cooley was seen by Dr. Acurio at Orthopedic Specialists of Louisiana for back pain radiating to her left leg. In May 2013, Cooley received a steroid injection at Schumpert First Care. In June 2013, she underwent a lumbar MRI showing disk bulges and herniation at several levels. In that same month, Cooley saw Dr. Clinton McAlister with back pain radiating to her right leg. Dr. McAlister ordered a bilateral L5 selective nerve root block. During 2013 and 2014, Cooley continued to seek treatment for back pain radiating to both legs and she received additional nerve root blocks.

         In July 2015, Cooley saw Dr. Kerr at the Spine Institute of Louisiana with a complaint of chronic low back pain radiating to her legs. Dr. Kerr ordered another lumbar MRI, which showed a disk herniation at L5-S1 contacting the nerve root. Dr. Kerr determined that Cooley's continued back pain was caused by the ruptured disk at L5-S1 and nerve root compression. In September 2015, Dr. Kerr ordered bilateral facet joint injections. In May 2016, Cooley saw Dr. John Noles, a specialist in pain management. Dr. Noles diagnosed Cooley with lumbar spondylosis (degeneration of the spine) and lumbar facet arthropathy. Dr. Noles performed a nerve rhizotomy, which involves burning the sensory nerve to the facet joints in an effort to relieve pain. The evidence showed that since the accident in November 2012, Cooley has had 5 nerve root blocks, 2 lumbar MRIs, 2 bilateral facet joint injections and 4 rhizotomy procedures.

         Cooley was the only witness who testified at trial. The medical testimony was presented through the depositions of Dr. Clinton McAlister, Dr. Eubulus Kerr, Dr. John Noles, Dr. Anthony Stuart and Dr. Bharat Guthikonda. After taking the matter under advisement, the trial court issued oral reasons for judgment finding that the accident had exacerbated Cooley's pre-existing back problems and required medical treatment for her back pain. However, the court found that the evidence regarding the need for future medical care due to the accident was speculative and declined to award any amount for future medical expenses. The trial court rendered judgment awarding Cooley $79, 508.66 for past medical expenses and $50, 000 in general damages. Cooley appeals the judgment.

         General Damages

         Cooley contends the trial court erred in awarding $50, 000 in general damages. Cooley argues that the award should be increased because the evidence shows that the accident caused the injuries for which she ...


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