Passenger dies when vehicle collides with tractor-trailer parked alongside freeway. $11M. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Driver parks truck illegally alongside road to relieve himself and is struck by another truck.

The Case

  • Case Name: Karen Garcia and the Estate of Jose Antonio Garcia v. Tri-Modal Distribution Services Inc. and Jorge Garcia
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC536714
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • Type of Action: Vehicles - Tractor Trailers, Wrongful Death
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Peter A. Hernandez
  • Plaintiffs:
    Estate of Jose Antonio Garcia
    Karen Garcia
  • Defendants:
    Tri-Modal Distribution Services Inc.
    Jorge Garcia (employee driver)
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $11,050,000
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 100% liability on defendant Tri-Modal. 0% liability on box-truck driver.
  • Economic Damages:

    $1,050,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $1,000,000

    Future: $9,000,000

  • Jury Polls: 12-0 negligence, 12-0 substantial factor, 11-1 comparative liability

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    The Vartazarian Law Firm, APC by Steven R. Vartazarian and Matthew J. Whibley, Sherman Oaks.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Harrington, Foxx, Dubrow & Canter by Edward R. Leonard, Orange.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Alexander R. Marmureanu, M.D., life expectancy/mortality, Los Angeles.

    Christopher B. Rogers, M.D., pathology, Los Angeles.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Jay N. Schapira, M.D., life expectancy/mortality, Los Angeles.

    Frank Sheridan, M.D., pathology, Los Angeles.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Larry E. Miller, trucking industry, La Verne.

    Raymond E. Merala, M.S., P.E., accident reconstruction, Hayward.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

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

    Gavin Huntley-Fenner, Ph.D., ergonomics/human factors, Irvine.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On May 22, 2013, plaintiff's decedent and husband, Jose Garcia, 25, a vending machine operator, was a passenger in a box-truck when it struck the rear of a Tri-Modal tractor-trailer that was parked on the paved shoulder of the transition lane between the SR-60 and SR-71 freeways in Pomona. Prior to this, the box-truck Jose Garcia was in swerved to the right to avoid an errant vehicle that had allegedly cut the box-truck off, and subsequently collided into the Tri-Modal truck.

    The driver of the Tri-Modal truck, Jorge Garcia, was outside the Tri-Modal tractor-trailer when the force of the impact from the box-truck caused the tractor-trailer to drive forward and Jorge Garcia was crushed underneath its tires and died.

    Jose Garcia, inside the box truck, was killed instantly. The driver of the box-truck survived and was not a party.

    Plaintiff Karen Garcia, Jose Garcia's wife, sued Tri-Modal Distribution Services Inc. and Jorge Garcia.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That Jorge Garcia was negligent for illegally parking the tractor-trailer on the side of a busy freeway, as the California Vehicle Code dictates that a tractor-trailer cannot be parked on the shoulder of a freeway unless there is an emergency.

    That if the Tri-Modal tractor-trailer was not there, the box-truck would have been able to return to the freeway after swerving onto the shoulder. Plaintiff contended that Jorge Garcia had pulled  the truck over to urinate in that his body was found outside the truck with his pants unzipped, and an autopsy showed no urine in his bladder.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Tri-Modal contended Jorge Garcia acted properly after becoming aware of a mechanical problem with his truck and pulled over to inspect it. Defense added that dispatch records confirmed Jorge Garcia reported he was pulling off the freeway to inspect a mechanical problem. Tri-Modal contended that the driver of the box-truck Jose Garcia was a passenger in was comparatively at fault for swerving into the tractor-trailer. Defense's expert in human factors opined that the box-truck driver should have been able to avoid the tractor-trailer.

    The driver of the box-truck's name was written in on the jury verdict sheet for apportionment, though he was not a defendant.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Death; multiple trauma; loss of society.

    Jose Garcia died instantly in the collision.

    Plaintiff Karen Garcia, Jose Garcia's wife, sought recovery for wrongful death damages for his death. The couple knew each other since they were both 14 years old and were each other's first relationship and first kiss. They married when they were 22 years old.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $5,000,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $700,000

Additional Notes

The jury found that Jorge Garcia violated the California Vehicle Code section that prohibited parking on the shoulder of the freeway and that he was negligent. The jury also found that his negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to Jose Garcia. The jury did not find that the driver of the box-truck was negligent.

Insurers: 

Primary – Zurich.

Umbrella – St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company (Travelers).

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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