Contractors attempt to set up traffic break without CHP, resulting in crash. $5.5M. San Luis Obispo County.

Summary

Paving contractors need to move equipment from one side of highway to the other. They use their vehicles to set up a traffic break, resulting in a high-speed crash.

The Case

  • Case Name: Bruce v. Telfer Technologies, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: San Luis Obispo Superior Court / 16 CV 0227
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, August 31, 2018
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, May 19, 2016
  • Type of Action: Negligence, Vehicles - Motorcycle
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Barry T. LaBarbera
  • Plaintiffs:
    Mickey Bruce
  • Defendants:
    Anrak Corporation
    Telfer Highway Technologies
    California Department of Transporation
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $5,510,000
  • Net Verdict or Award: $3,691,700
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    Telfer was found 50% responsible; Anrak was found 17% responsible.

    California Department of Transportation received a defense verdict.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 33%
  • Economic Damages:

    $1,010,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $4,500,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 15 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motion for new trial and JNOV by Telfer denied October 3, 2018.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Office of Greg A. Coates by Greg A. Coates, San Luis Obispo.

    Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, and Schoenberger by Richard Schoenberger and Joseph Nicholson, San Francisco.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Epps and Gilroy by Darren W. Epps, Santa Maria. (For Anrak Corporation)
    Wait and Hufnagel by Robert A. Hufnagel,  Claremont. (For Telfer Highway Technologies)

    Ericksen Arbuthnot by Sharon L. Hightower, San Jose. (For California Department of Transportation)

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Michael T. Laird, M.D., orthopedics, Pismo Beach. (Treating physician.)

    Michael Burg, M.D., emergency room procedures. (Treating physician.)

    Alex Barchuk, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation, Marin.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Steven Pearson, M.D., orthopedics, Santa Barbara. (DME) 

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Mark Shattuck, Ph.D., accident reconstruction, Woodside.

    David Krauss, Ph.D., human factors, Los Angeles.

    Brian Samuel Iler, construction management, El Cajon.

    Stephen Hamilton, Ph.D., economics.

    Tracy Albee, Ph.D., life care planning, Tracy.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Christian Engelmann, P.E., traffic engineering, Livermore.

    Thomas Fugger, accident reconstruction.

    Stein Husher, M.S., accident reconstruction, Camarillo.

    Steve Garets, motorcycle safety, Corvallis, OR.

    Jubin Merati, Ph.D., economics, Los Angeles.

    Chris Meyers, life care planning/vocational rehabilitation, Ventura.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On August 12, 2015 plaintiff was headed home from his job as a Caltrans inspector. He was traveling north on Highway 101 in the #1 lane on the Cuesta Grade. At this time the highway was undergoing a repaving project approximately three miles in length. The general contractor was Telfer. The sub-contractor was Anrak. 

    Anrak had equipment on site to grind off the existing pavement and Telfer was to lay the new asphalt directly behind the grinders. Anrak had staged its grinders from an earlier shift adjacent to the northbound (NB) lanes. On the night of the accident it had planned on working in the southbound (SB) lanes, which would necessitate getting the grinders from the staging area to the SB lanes. In order to do this Telfer proposed performing a traffic break using its own vehicles as opposed to seeking assistance by the CHP. Telfer needed three vehicles to cover the three NB lanes. It only had two available vehicles, so it sought assistance from Anrak. Anrak, by its contract and company policy, does not participate in any traffic control measures. Nonetheless, it offered up a 24-year-old employee who had never performed a traffic break. 

    The plan was to have the three vehicles leave the staging area, cross the three NB lanes and then travel SB to the Monterey Street off-ramp. They would then turn around and enter the NB lanes, fanning out to cover the three lanes, slowing traffic sufficiently to allow the 45-foot-long grinders to cross the highway.

    The Anrak employee attempted to cross the NB lanes but failed to assess oncoming traffic. A NB vehicle in the #1 lane, driven by Edward Clynes, was traveling at 67 mph when he saw the Anrak vehicle traveling perpendicular across his lane, causing him to come to a panic stop. Plaintiff, who was traveling 60-65 mph on a motorcycle, failed to realize that a vehicle had come to a stop and rear-ended the Clynes’ vehicle, causing him to be catapulted over it and resulting in severe injuries. 

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contended that Telfer was negligent for its decision to perform its own traffic break instead of using available CHP, which it was required to do per Caltrans specs. Anrak was negligent by allowing an inexperienced employee to perform a traffic break against company policy and vicariously liable for the negligence of its employee in making an unsafe crossing maneuver on the highway. Plaintiff also contended that Caltrans was negligent by failing to inform Telfer that CHP was available that night.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Telfer contended it had no responsibility since the traffic break never occurred. Anrak maintained that it bore no direct responsibility for its employee since Telfer directed his activities and therefore became a special employer. Caltrans contended that it had no duty to inform Telfer of CHP presence. All defendants contended that plaintiff was negligent and inattentive and was the cause of his own injuries.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Severely fractured pelvis and hip that required three surgeries; a total hip replacement and probability of another surgery in 18-20 years; severely fractured left wrist requiring an ORIF and probability of left wrist fusion in five years; fractures to right ankle and heels of both feet; fracture of L3.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $272,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $616,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $358,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $1,000,000 to Telfer August 2017; $2,000,000 to Anrak August 2017; $500,000 to Caltrans August 2017.
  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $3,500,000 demand made at mediation May 2017.
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: $12,000,000 at closing.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: None.
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: None.
  • Defendant Offer during Trial: Telfer offered $200,000 while jury was deliberating.

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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