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Pederson v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

September 30, 2019

CLINTON D. PEDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant; and LEANNE MCGILL Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT REGARDING LEEANN MCGILL’S COMPLAINT

          ROBERT J. BRYAN United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on the Defendant United States’ Motion to Exclude (Dkt. 56) and Motion for Summary Judgment regarding Plaintiff Leeann McGill’s Complaint (Dkt. 49). The Court has reviewed the pleadings filed regarding the motions and is fully advised.

         This case arises from a motor vehicle collision which occurred when Jose Caywood, an employee of the United States, Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, hit Plaintiff Clinton Pederson’s vehicle, that, in turn, hit Plaintiff Leanne McGill’s vehicle on State Route 12. Dkt. 1. The United States now moves for summary judgment on Ms. McGill’s claim for negligence, brought pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq. (“FTCA”), arguing that Ms. McGill cannot meet her burden of showing that the motor vehicle accident was the proximate cause of her claimed injury (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (“CRPS”)). Dkt. 49. For the reasons provided below, the motion to exclude (Dkt. 56) and the motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 49) should be denied.

         I. FACTS RELEVANT TO THE MOTION

         The motor vehicle accident occurred on January 3, 2017. Dkt. 1. Ms. McGill states that, right after the accident, she got out of her car and checked on Mr. Pederson. Dkt. 50-1, at 8. She called 911. Id. The paramedics arrived, but she was not medically evaluated and did not go to the hospital. Id. A little after the accident, Ms. McGill had pain in her right shoulder and arm and a burning in her wrist. Dkt. 50-1, at 9. She states that she also had “normal aches and pains in [her] back and in [her] legs] like [she] had gotten in a car accident, but . . . it seem normal” to her. Dkt. 50-1, at 9.

         Ms. McGill returned to work for over a week; she worked in an assisted living facility. Dkt. 50-1 at 4. She states that she was able “push through normal ‘I just got in a car accident’ aches and pains” initially. Dkt. 50-1, at 4. On January 15, 2017, however, she was helping a resident of the care facility stand, when “all of a sudden, [her] arm went completely numb, fell to [her] side, and it was like it wasn’t there.” Dkt. 50-1, at 4. She states that her arm “turned into nothing but excruciating pain, shooting completely up to [her] shoulder.” Ms. McGill states that she “talked to one of the nurses that were [sic] on duty at the time, and [her] forearm was actually swollen two to three times its size, and that’s when [the nurse] told [Ms. McGill] that she needed to go to the [emergency room].” Dkt. 50-1, at 5. The nurse on duty at the care facility sent Ms. McGill home. Id.

         On January 17, 2017, Ms. McGill went to the emergency room. Dkt. 50-1, at 8. The treatment notes from the emergency room provide, in part:

Chief Complaint: Motor Vehicle Crash . . . Patient does have pain to forearm with intermittent tingling to hand. States when she went to go bowling the other day had pain shooting up her entire arm. Also with increase pain when she is trying to move her patients at work.

Dkt. 50-2, at 3. Her doctor indicated that she should be excused from work for two days. Id.

         On January 19, 2017, Ms. McGill was seen at the Washington Orthopedic Center. Dkt. 50-3, at 2. The assessment was, “[r]ight forearm pain and swelling and hand numbness and tingling two weeks after a motor vehicle accident. The exact etiology is unclear.” Id. Nerve conduction testing was ordered. Id. She was released to return to work on January 20, 2017. Dkt. 50-3, at 7.

         The nerve conduction test results were essentially normal. Dkt. 50-7, at 6. Ms. McGill received treatment from a chiropractor late January 2017 through July 2017. Dkt. 50-4. She was assessed by Douglas Taylor, M.D. on March 31, 2017, and at his recommendation, received a right stellate ganglion block on April 24, 2017, for “likely [CRPS].” Dkt. 50-5, at 3-8. At a follow-up exam, Ms. McGill reported that she did not get any benefit from the block. Id. Dr. Taylor ruled out CRPS as the cause of her pain because the procedure did not give her relief. Dkt. 50-5, at 4.

         On May 28, 2018, Ms. McGill was examined by Thomas L. Gritzka. Dkt. 50-4, at 2. Dr. Gritzka’s report indicates that after the accident, “she attempted to continue working” as a “caregiver at a residence and assisted living facility.” Dkt. 50-4, at 3. He discussed her medical history and diagnosed her with “[CRPS] type 1, right shoulder girdle, ” which he opined is “more probable than not due to the motor vehicle accident of January 3, 2017.” Dkt. 50-4, at 10. He noted that she “sustained a mechanism of injury which as she described it started with wrist pain and was the result of jamming or extending her right arm locked against a steering wheel in full extension.” Dkt. 50-4, at 10.

         At his deposition, Dr. Gritzka testified that he was not aware, based on her medical records or Ms. McGill’s report to him, of any other incidents or events that occurred related to her right arm before receiving medical treatment on January 17, 2017. Dkt. 50-7, at 5-6. As to Ms. McGill’s condition, Dr. Gritzka testified that:

Well, she suffers from a condition that is diagnosed really more or less by jargon. I mean, exactly what complex regional pain syndrome is, is a medical dispute, but symptoms similar to what she has could be called other things. It could be called a peripheral nerve and centralization phenomenon. It also could be called a neuropathic pain syndrome. And these all more or less describe the same thing, which is basically that somebody has a shoulder -- has a pain complaint that appears to be related to some condition, but the exact pathoetiology or condition is unclear. So, you know, depending on what medical specialty group you live with, you might call it something else. The reason I picked the complex regional pain syndrome as the most likely condition is because – was because, first of all, the mechanism of injury. Complex regional pain syndromes are bizarre in that they usually start with something that initially seems kind of trivial, and then ...

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