SUV owners blame tire shop after their tire blows out, causing rollover. Defense verdict. San Bernardino County.

Summary

Plaintiffs say the tire shop conducted a safety inspection of the car's tires, but had no proof.

The Case

  • Case Name: Juana DeJesus, Diana Urbina, Nicole Adriana DeJesus v. Ford Motor Company, Continental Tire The Americas LLC, International Tire Shop, Doe Repair Shop, and Does 1 Thru 200
  • Court and Case Number: San Bernardino Superior Court, Case No. CIVDS 1507909
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, June 06, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, June 04, 2015
  • Type of Action: Negligence
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Wilfred Schneider
  • Plaintiffs:
    Juana DeJesus, Diana Urbina, Nicole Adrian DeJesus
  • Defendants:
    Luppino Enterprises, Inc. dba Bud's Moreno Valley Tire Pros
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 13 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Jury Polls: 11-1 no negligence.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Defendant will file a post-trial motion to recoup expert fees and costs of approximately $190,000.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Orland Law Group, AOC by James Orland, El Segundo.

    Mortimer Law Firm by Tom Mortimer, Manhattan Beach.

    Roofian Law Group by Michael Roofian, Los Angeles.

     

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Hosp Gilbert & Bergsten by Robert T. Bergsten and Mary Campo, Pasadena.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Daniel Franc, M.D., neurology.

    Michael Gilewski, Ph.D., neuropsychology.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    None.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Gary Tillery, tire shop standard of care.

    Paul Saedler, accident reconstruction.

    Officer Salvedor Acevedo, accident reconstruction.

    Jan Roughan, life care planning.

    Jennie McNulty, economics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Chris Brignola, accident reconstruction.

     

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On June 8, 2013, plaintiff Juana DeJesus, age 45, the owner and driver of a 2003 Ford Expedition, was returning home to Perris from a short trip to Mexicali, Mexico. Accompanying Juana was her daughter, plaintiff Diana Urbina, age 25, and her niece, plaintiff Nicole DeJesus, age 15.

    While the family was traveling on westbound Interstate 8, their SUV's right rear tire blew out and the tread separated. As a result, Juana lost control of the SUV and it rolled over four times before it came to rest in the center median. Juana and Diana were life-flighted to UCSD Medical Center, and Nicole was taken by ambulance to El Centro Hospital.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiffs alleged that they took their SUV to Bud's Moreno Valley Tire Pros the day before the accident for a tire safety inspection. Plaintiffs claimed that after inspecting the SUV, a Bud's tire technician advised plaintiffs that the SUV's tires were safe and did not need immediate replacement. Plaintiffs claimed that the inspection was quick and that no paperwork was generated. Plaintiffs tipped the Bud's technician in cash and departed later the same day for their trip to Mexicali, Mexico.

    The accident happened the next day as plaintiffs returned home from Mexicali. At trial, plaintiffs presented Juana DeJesus's son, Jose Urbina, and his friend, Jonathan Padilla, as witnesses who confirmed the actions of Bud's tire technician. Plaintiffs alleged that the subject tire failed due to its age, use and weathering over time. Plaintiffs further alleged that Bud's tire inspection fell below the standard of care for a tire store and that Bud's was negligent for not notifying plaintiffs that their SUV needed new tires. Plaintiffs' expert on tire shop standards, Gary Tillery, testified at trial that all four of the SUV's tires needed replacement due to their age, weathering and lack of tread depth. Tillery testified that Bud's would have known that the tires needed replacement, but that a car owner such as plaintiff Juana DeJesus would not necessarily know the signs of potential tire failure. Tillery testified that Bud's failure to do a proper inspection and notify plaintiffs of the need to replace their tires were substantial factors in causing the accident.

    Plaintiffs' accident reconstruction expert, Paul Saedler, testified that the subject tire failed due to its age and prior use, and that once the tire failed and its tread separated, plaintiff Juana DeJesus could not prevent the rollover.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant Bud's alleged that it did not service plaintiffs' SUV as plaintiffs claimed. Bud's had a policy of not servicing cars without the owner checking in and filling out paperwork. The paperwork would then be kept indefinitely by Bud's. Since Bud's had no records of plaintiffs' alleged service, Bud's claimed that no such service occurred. Additionally, Bud's claimed that plaintiffs and their witnesses were not credible about their visit to Bud's, and that the visit never occurred, as their stories and timelines were inconsistent and not supported by the facts.

    Bud's further alleged that plaintiffs knew that their SUV needed new tires before the accident, but because of a lack of finances, time or care, plaintiffs did not get new tires as they should have. Plaintiffs also neglected to care for their SUV for the seven years that they owned it before the accident and that there was no evidence the SUV had received any service of any kind during that time. Thus, plaintiffs and their SUV were a danger to themselves and all motorists that plaintiffs drove past the day of the accident.

    Bud's admitted that if plaintiffs had brought their SUV to Bud's before the accident as alleged, Bud's would have been neglectful for not telling plaintiffs that they needed new tires as the tires clearly were unsafe to drive on and their condition violated the California Vehicle Code requirements for safe tires. Lastly, Bud's alleged that once plaintiffs' subject tire blew and lost its tread, plaintiff Juana should have been able to control the SUV. However, plaintiff Juana overreacted and oversteered, which caused the SUV to roll over. Defense accident reconstruction expert, Chris Brignola, testified at trial how plaintiff Juana oversteered, and absent the oversteering, there would have been no rollover and thus none of the catastrophic injuries that plaintiffs sustained.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff Juana DeJesus was airlifted to UCSD Medical Center, where she stayed for over one month after she was placed in an induced coma. Juana sustained a fractured cervical spine at C6-7, rendering her a quadriplegic. She also sustained a fractured left wrist, two amputated fingers, punctured/collapsed lungs, a traumatic brain injury, and numerous cuts, contusions and sprains to her neck, back, limbs and head. She underwent a cervical fusion and tracheostomy before being discharged from UCSD. She then spent the next two months at Loma Linda Rehab.

    Over the subsequent nine years, Juana has had dozens of hospitalizations and procedures for urinary tract infections, respiratory problems and bed sores. She requires constant supervision and care as she cannot feed, bathe or dress herself. She is confined to her bed or wheelchair. She must have her catheter changed every three hours. She continues to suffer from memory problems, headaches, nerve pain and muscle spasms, insomnia, depression, anxiety, blood pressure and respiratory problems. Juana's past recoverable medical bills totaled $151,143.17, and her future medical bills and life care plan total $22,058,903.

    Diana Urbina was likewise airlifted to UCSD, where she stayed two days before her discharge. Diana sustained a traumatic brain injury with loss of consciousness, fractured ribs, and numerous cuts, contusions and sprains to her knees, neck, back and head. She was confined to a wheelchair for one month. She still suffers from severe headaches, back and knee pain, depression, anxiety and insomnia. Diana's past recoverable medical bills totaled $50,047.21.

    Nicole DeJesus was taken by ambulance to El Centro Hospital. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, tinnitus, a fractured right wrist, and numerous cuts, contusions and sprains to her neck, back, abdomen and head. She still suffers from continuing headaches, memory problems, and severe back pain. Nicole's past recoverable medical bills totaled $21,702.42. Defendant Bud's did not dispute the nature or extent of plaintiffs' damages. Bud's did not call its damage experts at trial, nor did it cross-examine plaintiffs' experts.

  • Juana DeJesus was a warehouse worker at Lowe's Distribution. She has not worked since the accident, nor will she work in the future. Her past lost earnings totaled $311,091, and her future lost earnings total $123,234. Diana Urbina was a salesperson at Sam's Club. She lost three months of work and roughly $6,000.

    Nicole DeJesus was a student and transferred to a continuation school due to poor grades caused by her post-accident problems. She has had trouble holding onto physically demanding jobs due to her back pain, but she did not present a wage-loss claim.

     

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $151,143.17 for Juana; $50,047.21 for Diana; $21,702.42 for Nicole
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $22,058,903 for Juana
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $311,091 for Juana; $6,000 for Diana
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $123,234 for Juana

Additional Notes

Before trial, plaintiffs made a $2,000,000 policy limits demand to defendant Bud's. Before trial, defendant Bud's offered Juana DeJesus $250,000, and Diana Urbina and Nicole DeJesus $1,500 each via 998 Offers to Compromise. At trial, Bud's offered plaintiffs a high-low with a floor of $100,000 and a ceiling of $2 million. Plaintiffs never responded to the high-low offer. 

In closing arguments, Juana's counsel asked the jury to award $10,796,720 for Juana's past general damages and $19,562,598.20 for future general damages. In closing, Diana's counsel asked the jury to award Diana $250,000 for her past and future general damages. In closing, Nicole's counsel asked the jury to award Nicole $160,000 for her past and future general damages. Bud’s did not dispute any of plaintiffs’ claimed damages. Defense counsel simply requested a defense verdict. 

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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