California personal injury verdicts is a continuing series where we highlight personal injury jury verdict awards in the Los Angeles Superior Court and the surrounding areas including Orange County, San Diego and Riverside / San Bernardino. This episode, I am highlighting a recent motorcycle accident claim that went to trial in downtown Los Angeles (Stanley Mosk Courthouse). The facts were as follows:
Facts of the Case: On July 18, 2011, the plaintiff was traveling on his motorcycle going northbound on Baldwin Avenue in the City of El Monte, CA. The defendant (driving an automobile) pulled out of a gas station parking lot causing the motorcyclists to swerve, loose control and crash with the bike landing on top of him. The case went to trial on July 9, 2014.
Legal Contentions of the Plaintiff: Plaintiff (the biker), argued that defendant (motor vehicle operator), failed to make a prudent entry onto a highway, failed to see the motorcycle, and caused the wreck. Plaintiff contended that defendant was negligent “per se” in violating several California Vehicle Codes as follows:
- California Vehicle Code 21804(a): Requires all partied intended to enter a highway to yield the right of way to any oncoming traffic prior to entry.
- California Vehicle Code 21658(a) and 22107: Requiring observation and waiting for vehicles to be within a reasonable safe distance prior to attempting to turn right or left upon any roadway or highway.
- California Vehicle Code 22108: Failure to signal prior to making a turn.
Legal Arguments of the Defense: The defendant argued that the incident was caused by the plaintiff’s unsafe speed, inattentiveness and/or failure to properly apply his brakes.
Injuries Claimed by Plaintiff: Plaintiff’s most significant injuries included a right knee tibial plateau fracture and a left ring finger distal phalangeal shaft fracture.
Settlement Discussions of the Parties: The defense made a pre-trial offer of $137,000 by way of a California Code of Civil Procedure section 998 “Offer to Compromise”. This was rejected by the plaintiff.
Result of Trial by Jury: The trial lasted seven days with both sides presenting both medical expert witnesses (Orthopedists) and Accident Reconstructionists. The jury deliberated a mere five hours and came back with a total verdict of $1,120,773.00 broken down as follows: (1) $9,704 for past loss of earnings; (2) $16,000 for future loss of earnings; (3) $56,969 past medical expenses (based upon a “Howell” calculation [i.e. what was paid by plaintiff’s health insurance provider]); (4) $200,000 for future medical expenses; (5) $8,100 for past “attendant care”; (6) $350,000 for past non-economic damages and (7) $480,000 for future non-economic damages.
Analysis by Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, Steven Sweat, Glotzer & Sweat, LLP
There are a few interesting things to analyze on this verdict. First, it would appear that there was a gross miscalculation on the part of the defense as to the potential amount a jury may award under these facts and with these injuries. It is clear from the verdict that the jury did not find any comparative fault on the part of the plaintiff (motorcycle rider). In addition, it would appear that plaintiff’s medical experts provided persuasive testimony as the serious nature of a tibial plateau fracture and the fact that this level of fracture has a lifetime of health consequences including arthritic changes and the potential for future surgeries. The fact that the defense made an offer that was less than 2 and a half times the agreed upon value of present medical bills, shows that they clearly thought that the jury would not “buy” the arguments regarding future medical expenses and/or that there would be some finding of comparative fault to reduce the award. One further thing to note is that the venue (downtown Los Angeles Superior Court) is, generally viewed as a favorable venue for plaintiffs as it draws its jury pool from some very diverse areas in and around downtown L.A.
Sources: The foregoing is a summary of facts reported on this verdict by the Los Angeles Daily Journal, Verdicts and Settlements, September 12, 2014.
Additional Resources: For further information or assistance with a motorcycle collision claim for personal injuries anywhere in California including Los Angeles, San Diego or the Inland Empire, click here .