United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Trcka brought this suit against the United States under the
Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et
seq., alleging that a U.S. Postal Service truck
rear-ended his vehicle at a stop light, causing him injury.
Doc. 13. Without objection from the United States, the court
granted summary judgment to Trcka on the question whether the
postal truck was operated negligently. Doc. 35. A bench trial
was held on causation and damages, Docs. 64, 66, and the
parties filed written closing arguments, Docs. 67, 68, 69.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), the court enters
the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. To the
extent that any Findings of Fact may be considered
Conclusions of Law, they shall be deemed Conclusions of Law,
and vice versa. After considering the evidence and assessing
the witnesses' credibility, the court awards judgment to
Trcka in the amount of $315, 754.70.
April 5, 2014, in St. Charles, Illinois, a postal truck
struck Trcka's car from behind while he was stopped at a
red light. Tr. 20:8-21:13.
Trcka suffered a whiplash injury as a result of the impact.
Injury to the facet joints in the neck is one of the most
common causes of whiplash-associated pain. Tr. 326:4-8.
returning home after the accident, Trcka felt severe pain in
his back and neck, had a headache, and experienced dizziness.
Treatment Immediately Following the Accident
Trcka went to the Delnor Hospital emergency room for
treatment of his symptoms. Ibid. He was examined,
had x-rays taken, received pain medication, and was referred
to a physical therapist. Tr. 25:25-26:2; Pl. Ex. A at 5.
Trcka was charged $1, 766 in connection with this hospital
visit. Pl. Ex. 3.
Trcka went to see his personal physician, Dr. John Vaikutis,
on April 8, 2014. Tr. 27:1-3. Dr. Vaikutis noted that
Trcka's headache and dizziness had
“dissipated” since the accident, but that his
back was still “tender.” Def. Ex. A at 5.
Vaikutis agreed that Trcka should receive physical therapy.
Trcka attended fifteen physical therapy sessions from April
10, 2014 to June 5, 2014. Pl. Ex. 7. He was charged $7,
503.06 for those sessions. Ibid.
Trcka reported progressively diminishing lower back pain at
his first nine physical therapy sessions. Pl. Ex. 6 at 21,
34, 48, 62, 76, 90, 104, 118, 130. On May 21, 2014, Trcka
told his physical therapist that he had no pain in his lower
back. Id. at 150. Trcka continued to report that he
had no pain in his lower back at subsequent physical therapy
sessions. Id. at 162, 175, 189, 201, 206.
Trcka saw Dr. Vaikutis again on May 22, 2014. Def. Ex. A at
15. Trcka told Dr. Vaikutis that his lower back was feeling
much better, but that he was still having issues with his
neck and right shoulder, despite some improvement.
Id. at 17.
Trcka believes that the physical therapy sessions gave him no
relief from his neck and shoulder pain. Tr. 31:17-22.
his final physical therapy session on June 5, 2014, Trcka
stated that he was still having trouble with his shoulder
pain, but that he would like to place physical therapy on
hold and try to manage his pain independently. Pl. Ex. 6 at
Trcka's Attempt to Manage His Pain Without
Trcka continued to experience pain in his neck, right
shoulder, and arm, without improvement, in Summer 2014. Tr.
37:8-19; Pl. Ex. A at 33, 42.
During that timeframe, Trcka often had trouble sleeping due
to the pain, which forced him to sleep sitting up in a chair.
Tr. 37:8-16; Pl. Ex. 4 at 39.
Trcka's difficulty sleeping was exacerbated by a
preexisting sinus condition, which occurred seasonally and
caused a post-nasal drip that would also force Trcka to sleep
sitting up. Tr. 18:2-25; Def. Ex. A at 30.
Trcka saw Dr. Vaikutis on September 3, 2014 for his pain and
difficulty sleeping. Pl. Ex. 4 at 39. Dr. Vaikutis ordered an
MRI on Trcka's cervical spine. Def. Ex. A at 45.
total cost of Trcka's office visits to Dr. Vaikutis
regarding his pain was $582. Pl. Ex. 5.
MRI at Central DuPage Hospital
September 4, 2014, Trcka received an MRI on his cervical
spine at Central DuPage Hospital (“CDH”). Tr.
38:9-14; Pl. Ex. 8 at 6. The cervical spine comprises the
seven uppermost vertebrae, all located in the neck.
Dorland's Online Illustrated Medical Dictionary
(32d edition 2014) (defining “cervical spine” and
MRI, as well as x-rays taken during Trcka's visit to the
emergency room after the accident, revealed age-associated
spinal degeneration that made Trcka's back more
susceptible to injury and pain. Tr. 142:17-19, 158:18-19,
particular, the MRI revealed a “diffuse disc/osteophyte
complex” at the C-5/C-6 disc in Trcka's neck. Pl.
Ex. 9 at 6. That condition developed with age and was not
caused by the accident. Tr. 224:14-23.
injury to the cervical facet joints often cannot be detected
in an ...