Hamrick videotape shows her using arm

January 24, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

No other evidence seems as relevant anymore.

A surveillance videotape shows an El Centro woman doing things with her left arm that she testified has limited movement and a "frozen shoulder."

El Centro resident Carmen Hamrick is suing the Imperial Irrigation District, alleging she tripped over a curb leading to the IID's auditorium because of dangerous conditions on the property.

Hamrick said she cannot garden, that she drives without using her left hand and arm, that she uses her right hand to hook up her seat belt and uses her right hand to carry packages and to open and close her car door.


The videotape shows her doing all of those things, sometimes more than once, with her left hand and arm.

Expert medical testimony claimed Hamrick has a "frozen shoulder."

In the videotape she can be seen stretching her left arm out to the car's door to close it. She can be seen raising her left hand above her shoulder to grab the seat belt, as well as reaching back at waist level to grab it. She can be seen using her left hand to roll the steering wheel to the right and back to the left. She can be seen raising her left arm to rub her forehead. In one scene she is seen using her left hand to open the door to her car, a late-model Ford Thunderbird.

The surveillance tape was produced by a licensed private investigator, Robert Wingate. He recorded Hamrick on five dates, though he said he traveled 11 times to the Imperial Valley with the intention of doing so.

Wingate testified that although he maintained surveillance outside Hamrick's home for 12 hours at a time, he only recorded her when she stepped outside her residence. He followed her and taped her as she went to such locations as the post office, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Bank of America, El Centro Regional Medical Center, Vons, Tamayo's Bakery, the former HomeBase and her attorney's office, Sutherland & Gerber of El Centro.

The videotape lasts about 28 minutes.

The tape also shows Hamrick holding items in her left hand and carrying them in her left arm.

Hamrick's attorney, Lowell Sutherland, requested a one-day continuance of the trial to discuss the tape with Hamrick, but Superior Court Judge Joseph Zimmerman denied the motion. Zimmerman asked what Sutherland might talk to Hamrick about since the tape has no dialogue and spoke for itself. Zimmerman also said Sutherland would be able to discuss the tape with Hamrick overnight.

Defense attorney Frank Oswalt called three witnesses who were at the scene at the time Hamrick fell. Though none saw her falling, they all testified they saw where and how she ended up after falling. A fourth witness was disallowed because Sutherland allegedly did not know the person was present at the time of the fall.

Three other witness called by Oswalt testified that hundreds of meetings were conducted at the IID auditorium, including thousands of people, and that after 5 p.m. the gate that separates the customer service area from the auditorium is closed. If the gate were closed, the only entrance to the auditorium would be through the doors on the north side.

Hamrick testified the date she fell was the first time she'd been on the north side of the building, and had never been through the north door leading to the auditorium. When presented with minutes of a 1994 meeting that included her name, she conceded she'd been to the one meeting; a meeting that started at 6 p.m.

Finally, Sutherland conceded he did indeed have a medical document purporting to state Hamrick injured her neck in a 1991 whiplash accident, five years before her 1996 fall. Sutherland argued for several days he did not have the document through no fault of his own. The day before Sutherland said he does have the document, Oswalt had said he would no longer seek to introduce it as evidence.

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

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