Aviation mechanic suffers MTBI and orthopedic injuries after being struck by a luggage tug. $2.7M. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Contractor driving a luggage tug causes accident on tarmac as ground crews await aircraft arrival.

The Case

  • Case Name: Jimenez v. Swissport SA LLC, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC 595777
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, January 30, 2020
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, September 29, 2015
  • Type of Action: Aviation Related
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Steven Kleifield
  • Plaintiffs:
    Jose Jimenez
  • Defendants:
    Swissport SA LLC
    Carlos Badio
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $2,716,500
  • Net Verdict or Award: $2,716,500
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
  • Economic Damages:

    $1,316,500

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $1,400,000

  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 days.
  • Jury Polls: 12-0 on past damages, 9-3 on future expenses, 11-1 on comparative fault.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Pius Joseph A Professional Law Corp. by Pius Joseph, Pasadena.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Steptoe & Johnson LLP by Robyn Crowther, Los Angeles.

    Steptoe & Johnson LLP by Rebecca Lipe, Chicago, IL.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Ronald Fisk, M.D., neurology, Los Angeles.

    Brad Jabour, M.D., neuroradiology, Santa Monica.

    Fardad Mobin, M.D., neurosurgery, Beverly Hills.

    Rajan Patel, M.D. , orthopedic surgery, Los Angeles.

    Jorge Villabla, M.D., neuropsychiatry.

    Santo Bifulco, M.D., life care planning.

    Andrew Morris, M.D., medical billing.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Barry Ludwig M.D., neurology, Santa Monica.

    Barry Pressman, M.D., neuroradiology.

    Scott Forman, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Newport Beach.

    Mark Spoonamore, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Rami Hashish, Ph.D., biomechanics, Los Angeles.

    Edmond Provder, vocational rehabilitation.

    Arsine Khayoyan, Ph.D., economics, Glendale.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    None.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff, a 32-year-old aviation mechanic, was waiting for arrival of an Aero Mexico flight for taxi and inspection in the course of his job along with his co-worker. Defendant Carlos Badio, employed by the airport contractor, defendant Swissport SA LLC was operating a loaded luggage tug, and drove across the jet bridge into the circle of safety where the aircraft mechanics were waiting, and struck them.  

    One mechanic went under the tug, and plaintiff was struck, propelled forward and landed on the ground. Plaintiff claimed that he suffered from mild traumatic brain injury and orthopedic injuries. The other mechanic also suffered similar injuries but his case was handled on a separate track.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the luggage tug driver was untrained, violated the airport rules of driving, Los Angeles World Airport Authority (LAWA) rules and the FAA rules. The driver did not have the mandatory training to drive on airport grounds and not have the mandatory FAA ICON to drive on the airport grounds.

    Additionally, the driver drove into the circle of safety and under the jet bridge in violation of the FAA and LAWA Rules. The tug driver also drove at excessive speed, which caused him to strike aircraft chocks, the reason  he lost control of the tug and hit plaintiff. Plaintiff also contended that defendant Swissport and Badio had the duty to make sure that no chocks were in the improper places prior to aircraft arrival.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendants at trial admitted liability, vicarious liability and negligent entrustment.

    However, defendants still argued comparative liability, alleging that plaintiff was doing an FOD walk (Foreign Object Debris), requiring plaintiff to remove the chocks himself.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), chondral damage to knee, bilateral knee arthroscopy, lumbar and cervical spine injury.

  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $216,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: Over $1,000,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $186,500
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $1,900,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $5,000,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $100,000

Additional Notes

Defendant argued at trial that plaintiff should be awarded $30,000 with a finding of 50% comparative negligence, essentially asking the jury to award plaintiff $15,000.00. 

Per defense counsel:

Plaintiff asked for $25 million.

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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