Driver of Ram truck incurs spinal injuries after being rear-ended by smaller car. $137K. Contra Costa County.

Summary

VW Jetta is totaled in crash, minimal damage to truck which had a trailer hitch port in place. State Farm defended.

The Case

  • Case Name: Dennis Shay v. Jakari Hynes-Akil
  • Court and Case Number: Contra Costa County Superior Court / MSC-19-01776
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, March 04, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, August 27, 2019
  • Type of Action: Vehicles - Auto vs. Auto, Vehicles - Freeway, Vehicles – rear-ender
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. John Devine
  • Plaintiffs:
    Dennis Shay
  • Defendants:
    Jakari Hynes-Akil
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $137,759
  • Settlement Amount: $215,000
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    All as to defendant.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
  • Economic Damages:

    $69,759

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $68,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 8 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 6 hours
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Case settled for $215,000 post-verdict.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Chiosso Law by Anthony Chiosso, San Francisco.

    Law Office of Che Hashim by Che Hashim, San Francisco.

    Coit Law Group by Albert Thuesen, San Francisco.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Jeanette N. Little & Associates by Kara Hitchcock, Pleasanton.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Kenneth Light, M.D., neurosurgery.

     

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Dimitry Kondrashov, M.D., neurosurgery.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Philip Allman, economics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Rene Castaneda, accident reconstruction.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff was a 49-year-old career union pipefitter at the time of the collision, who was rear-ended in his Ram 3500 pickup on Interstate 680 at 20-25 mph by a 2000 VW Jetta driven by the defendant. It was an underride crash that caused little visible damage to the truck, but the Jetta was totaled. Most of the damage was to the hitch receiver in the plaintiff's truck.

    There was no traffic collision report, plaintiff did not go to the ER. He went to his chiropractor the next day for shoulder, neck, back, and sciatic pain and numbness. He had MRIs of his spine five months post-crash.

    The plaintiff had only undergone chiropractic care in the three years before trial. He did consult with a treating spine ortho, Dr. Santi Rao, eight months post-crash, but did not follow up with him until the month before the trial and never took his pain management advice.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff was unable to do any pipefitting work for six months post-crash but was able to pivot to a less strenuous position in HVAC maintenance for two years. He then developed carpal tunnel in both arms (unrelated) and as a result of carpal tunnel surgery, was out of work for a year, including at the time of trial.

    His prior medical history included taking a year off work in 2014 for bilateral tennis elbow surgery and eight months off work the year before the crash for knee surgery. 

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That this was a minor, underride crash, which could not have caused serious injury. That plaintiff's body was already breaking down prior to the crash and his spine was just the next body part that wore out. Thus, plaintiff had no significant damages.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Ongoing severe neck pain and headache, as well as weakness in his arms, caused by a herniated disc at C5-6 and C6-7, compressing the spinal cord and producing nerve root canal stenosis. Disc protrusions at L4-5, S1 causing moderate to severe spinal canal narrowing and moderate to severe subarticular recess stenosis.

  • Plaintiff claimed past and future lost income and medical expenses as well as significant damages due to the effects on his life.

Additional Notes

Defendant's best offer was a CCP 998 offer prior to trial for $30,000. Plaintiff issued a CCP 998 demand for the policy limits of $100,000, which expired approximately one year prior to the verdict. The defense agreed to pay the entire costs and interest bill in the form of a settlement following the verdict in the amount of $215,000.

There were some important rulings on motions in limine. The defense wanted to keep out the fact that the defendant was looking at his mobile phone at the moment of the impact because they were admitting liability. Plaintiff's counsel argued that the defendant had estimated his speed at the time of the crash at his depo and interrogatory responses, and plaintiff should have the opportunity to examine/impeach his testimony. The judge agreed. The judge agreed it was pertinent to the evaluation of the defense accident reconstructionist’s opinions.

Per defense counsel:

Plaintiff's counsel asked the jury for $1.7 million. The jury did not award any future medical care nor did they award any future wage loss.

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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