$11.3 million for driver injured when truck’s defective wheel hub fails. San Francisco County.

Summary

A garbage-truck driver was awarded $11.3 million for back injuries sustained when his truck's front wheel failed due to a defective hub. The 998 offer was only $350,000, and the offer at trial was $1 million.

The Case

  • Case Name: Mariolle v. Volvo Truck, Consolidated Metco and Wittke Manufacturing
  • Court and Case Number: U.S. District Court, San Francisco / 09:1209 MMC
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, May 17, 2012
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, October 28, 2008
  • Type of Action: Products Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Maxine Chesney
  • Plaintiffs:
    Raymond Mariolle, 46, Local 70 Teamster employee of Waste Management
  • Defendants:
    Volvo Truck North America, Consolidated Metco, Wittke Manufacturing, Waste Management
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $11,397,854
  • Net Verdict or Award: $10,857,854 (with a $540,000 workers' compensation credit to be applied to past and future benefits)
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    The defendants are jointly and severally liable for economic damages of $2,397,854. The defendants are liable for their respective share of fault for non-economic damages

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: ConMet (manufactured wheels hubs) 52%, Volvo (manufactured truck) 30%, Wittke (modified the truck) 12%, Waste Management 6%
  • Economic Damages:

    $2,397,854

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $9,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 12 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 10 hours
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: None by defendants. Plaintiff filed to amend verdict to add names of defendants which were left off of the judgment.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Boxer Gerson LLP by Gary B. Roth and John M. Anton, Oakland
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard &Smith LLP by Anthony Sonnett and Trevor Ingold (for Volvo Truck), Los Angeles CA
    Bradley, Curley, Asiano, Barrabee & Gale LLP by Michael King (for Wittke and Waste Management), Larkspur CA

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Plaintiff’s treating physicians (names not provided)
    Michael R. Klein, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S., orthopedics (DME, called on the issue of causation), Carmichael
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    Dr. Harry L. Smith, Ph.D., M.D., radiology, San Antonio, TX
    Michael R. Klein, Jr. M.D., orthopedics
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Scott Buske, vehicle design
    Carol Hyland, vocational rehabilitation
    Dr. Margo Ogus, economist
    Robert Lindskog, accident reconstruction
    Gary Moran, biomechanics
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Charles Bird, PE, vehicle design
    Dennis C. Schneider, Ph.D., bioengineering, San Luis Obispo
    Erik Volk, M.A., economist, Lafayette

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Date and place of incident: October 29, 2007, on a road near Livermore (CA) airport

    Facts: Plaintiff, a garbage-truck driver for 22 years, was driving his 57,500 pound garbage truck when the front wheel hub fractured, causing the right front wheel to detach. The garbage truck crashed down to the pavement, injuring plaintiff.Please show claims, contentions and all disputed matters under contentions rather than facts. Facts stated here should be only those in evidence.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant companies were aware the wheel hubs should not be used at the capacities they were rated for, as evidenced by emails between engineers of defendants Consolidated Metco and Volvo Truck.

    The vehicle was made in 2001 and the manufacturers were advised in 2004 that the hubs and wheel assembly of the vehicle was failing in similar vehicles; that three-and-a-half years lapsed between the notice of the defect and the plaintiff's injury-causing event. In spite of actual knowledge of the nature, scope and degree of the risks presented, the defendants did not attempt to recall the product or warn of the danger. Plaintiff contended that this demonstrated willful disregard for the rights and safety of the drivers of the garbage trucks and the vehicles that share the highway with them.

    As to injuries, that plaintiff suffered a compression injury to the spine. Plaintiff has undergone three surgeries thus far and will require more. His constant pain has kept him from working.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the vehicle was not defective; that defendants had no notice of the defect and that the accident was not the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries; that there were insufficient forces in the event to cause injury; that plaintiff's injuries were the result of a previously undiagnosed degenerative condition; that plaintiff was not injured in the event beyond a sprain/strain injury of two year's duration; that plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Bulging disc at L5, facet disruption, spondylolisthesis and radicular pain.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $ 101,826
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $ 420,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $ 278,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $ 1,545,028 Other: $53,000 (loss of household services) $1,500,000 (loss of consortium for spouse)

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: None
  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $7,800,000
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: $7,100,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $350,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: Joint offer of $1,000,000
  • Defendant Offer during Trial: Renewed joint offer of $1,000,000

Additional Notes

The Rest of the Story


Per plaintiff's attorney: The case turned on the credibility of the parties. The plaintiff had been a garbage man for twenty-two years and had never had an injury to his back. He had recently undergone knee surgery with an orthopedic surgeon and there were no complaints of back injury.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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