Medical testimony heard in Hamrick v. IID

January 18, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Medical testimony was heard Thursday in the trial of the woman suing the Imperial Irrigation District alleging dangerous conditions at the district's El Centro auditorium led her to trip, fall and get injured.

Medical doctors for both sides of the issue testified about El Centro resident Carmen Hamrick's injuries. One doctor was a orthopaedic surgeon from San Diego, while the other is a local neurological specialist.

The issue came down to whether Hamrick's current pain is from injuries suffered on the date of her fall, Oct. 16, 1996, or from a whiplash injury suffered in 1991, and whether she is embellishing her injuries.

Both doctors testified Hamrick suffered injury to the left side of her body, including her left arm, left shoulder, face and teeth. The difference in opinion revolves around alleged injuries to her cervical disks in her neck.


Hamrick's doctor, Travis Calvin of El Centro, testified that his conclusions are that Hamrick's pain is consistent with trauma to the C4-C5 cervical disks in her neck.

IID's doctor, William Bowman of San Diego, testified that in her visits to several doctors, Hamrick did not initially complain about pain in her neck and that her pain is inconsistent with trauma to her neck.

"She may have had some complaints of pain to her shoulder but not to her neck," Bowman said of his April 13, 1999, examination of Hamrick.

Bowman also testified that Hamrick's complaint that she could not use her arm to do normal things she had done in the past would have resulted in the left arm getting smaller as her muscles contracted due to lack of use. He said he measured both arms and they were of equal size. Those measurements and his measured reflex of Hamrick's arms led him to his conclusions.

By contrast, Calvin testified that Hamrick's pain and loss of sensation were indeed indications of neck trauma in the area of cervical disks C4-C5, and the symptoms are the result of a pinched nerve in her neck.

"This is the type of thing I think she has," he said, adding that such injuries are difficult to feign. "It's the only explanation I have for why she has pain."

Calvin said he disagreed with Bowman's conclusions and that some of Bowman's findings were consistent with trauma to the neck. For example, Bowman wrote that Hamrick's pain would increase when she sneezed or coughed. That, Calvin said, is an indication of neck trouble.

"I think that the trauma itself is what caused her pain," Calvin said.

The question of prior trauma to Hamrick's neck from a whiplash accident in 1991 has not been resolved. When IID attorney Frank Oswalt sought to introduce a document from the San Diego Orthopaedic Medical Clinic about the injury, Hamrick attorney Lowell Sutherland of El Centro objected, and Superior Court Judge Joseph Zimmerman did not allow the document to be shown to the jury at that point.

The trial continues today.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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