Bicyclist and his wife awarded over $4.75 million after car driver deemed responsible for accident. San Diego County.

Summary

Bicyclist runs into driver's door of a moving vehicle. Bicyclist had right of way. Defense admitted liability on eve of trial but disputed extent of injuries; made 998 offer of $750,000.

The Case

  • Case Name: Gabriel Varela and Bernice Varela v. Birdi & Associates Inc., Moninder Birdi, and Hertz Vehicles LLC
  • Court and Case Number: San Diego Superior Court / 37-2012-00090344-CU-PA-CTL
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, July 02, 2013
  • Type of Action: Bicycle Accident, Loss of Consortium, Vehicles - Intersection
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Joan M. Lewis
  • Plaintiffs:
    Gabriel Varela, 42, U.S. Navy Commander and his wife, Bernice Varela
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $4,775,399
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: The jury found Birdi to be 100 percent at fault for the collision.
  • Economic Damages:

    Gabriel Varela:  $1,355,598 future medical cost   

                            $405,801 future lost earnings                      

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Gabriel Varela: $800,000 past pain and suffering

                           $2,200,000 future pain and suffering

    Bernice Varela: $14,000 Loss of Consortium

                           

                                   

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 weeks
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 1/2 days
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defendants intend to file a motion for new trial. Plaintiffs will be filing a memorandum of costs and motion for sanctions under Code of Civil Procedure Section 2033.420.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Law Offices of Robert Hamparyan by Robert Hamparyan and Laura Sasaki, San Diego.
    Law Office of Kane Handel by Kane Handel, San Diego.
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Willis | DePasquale, LLP by Larry N. Willis and Shane M. Biornstad, Orange.
    Gentes & Associates by Stephen A. Gentes, San Diego.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    Michael Lobatz, M.D., neurology, Encinitas.
    Brad Cohen, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Poway.
    Douglas Dobecki, M.D., pain management, San Diego.
    Nancy Markel, Ph.D., neuropsychology, San Diego.
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    Jonathan Schleimer, M.D., neurology, San Diego.
    William Bowman, M.D., orthopedic surgery, San Diego.
    Thomas Hedge, M.D., physical medicine, Northridge.
    Dean Delis, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Encinitas.
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Eugene Vanderpol, accident reconstruction, Carlsbad.
    Thomas Jennings, driving and cycling safety, St. George, UT.
    Michael Willoughby, Ph.D., economist, San Diego.
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Gerald Bretting, accident reconstruction/bicycle safety, Los Angeles.
    David Krauss, Ph.D., human factors, Los Angeles.
    David Weiner, economist, Los Angeles.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On February 8, 2010, at approximately 5:00 p.m., Plaintiff Commander Varela was riding his bicycle northbound on Catalina Boulevard near the intersection of Orchard Avenue in San Diego, California. Defendant Moninder Birdi, who was operating a Hertz rental vehicle, was traveling westbound on Orchard Avenue. Varela collided with the driver-side door of the vehicle being operated by Birdi in the northbound traffic lane on Catalina Boulevard.

    Commander Varela and his wife, Bernice Varela, filed suit against Birdi, Birdi & Associates Inc., and Hertz Vehicles LLC. Plaintiffs alleged Birdi was negligent in the operation of his vehicle, and that he was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Hertz was voluntarily dismissed from the action.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Commander Varela claimed that he had the right-of-way at the subject intersection, since Birdi had a stop-sign on Orchard Avenue while traffic on Catalina Boulevard was uncontrolled at that intersection. Plaintiffs claimed Birdi failed to yield the right-of-way and drove into Mr. Varela's path of travel, causing the collision. The police report for the accident placed fault on Birdi for failing to yield.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant Birdi stipulated one week prior to trial that he acted negligently in connection with the collision, but argued that plaintiff was comparatively at fault for riding his bicycle too fast and not paying attention.

    That Mr. Varela made a good recovery from his injuries, and was able to return to work as a Navy Commander. Defendant disputed plaintiff's claimed cognitive impairments.  Also, that Mr. Varela should be awarded no damages for future lost earnings and minimal damages for future medical care and his pain and suffering.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Comminuted intertrochanteric fracture of the right femur; comminuted displaced mid-shaft femur fracture; frontal bone fracture; frontal sinus fracture; upper and lower lip lacerations (through-and-through); right knee meniscus tear; left wrist fracture; concussion; mild traumatic brain injury; cognitive deficits; occipital neuralgia; chronic pain; sleep disorder.

    Mr. Varela underwent surgery on his hip and femur, having hardware implanted, on February 9 and 18, 2010, partial hardware removal surgery on November 24, 2010, and arthroscopic right knee surgery on May 8, 2012.

    Mr. Varela also underwent multiple surgical procedures on his lips to repair the damage and for scar revision. He also claimed cognitive deficits, occipital neuralgia, chronic pain, and sleep disturbances as a result of the collision.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $1,800,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $479,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $1,025,000 on September 14, 2012.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $750,000 on March 1, 2013.

Additional Notes

Insurers:   Mercury Insurance for Birdi (auto)

                Hartford Insurance Group for Birdi (commercial)

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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