Left-turning vehicle collides with motorcycle. Both drivers assigned fault. $3.5M gross. Riverside County.

Summary

$3.5 million gross reduced to $2.1 after comparative fault when car making left turn collides with oncoming motorcycle.

The Case

  • Case Name: Townsend v. Olivo
  • Court and Case Number: Riverside Superior Court / RIC1611099
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, February 11, 2019
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, August 26, 2016
  • Type of Action: Vehicles - Left Turn, Vehicles - Motorcycle
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Daniel A. Ottolia
  • Plaintiffs:
    Jeffrey Townsend, 30, unemployed.
  • Defendants:
    Jose Olivo and Maria Olivo
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $3,500,000
  • Net Verdict or Award: $2,100,000 after comparative fault reduction.
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $2,100,000

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 60% Maria Olivo; 40% Jeffrey Townsend.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 2 weeks.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motion for new trial. Motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Lari-Joni & Bassell, LLP by Torsten Bassell, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Macdonald & Cody, LLP by Scott Macdonald, Irvine.

    Klute and Newton by Duane Newton, Redlands.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    William Schobert, M.D., orthopedic sports medicine, Orange.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Neeraj Gupta, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Pomona.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Joseph Yates, accident reconstruction, Long Beach.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Stein Husher, P.E., accident reconstruction, Camarillo.

    Anthony Stein, Ph.D., human factors, La Canada.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The accident occurred when defendant made a left turn at an intersection and collided with plaintiff, who had been traveling in the opposite direction on his motorcycle.

    Defendant's insurer denied coverage of the driver and that matter was extensively litigated (see notes) before this matter went to trial.

    The jury found both parties negligent and that their negligence was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff's harm. The jury assigned 60% of fault to defendant and 40% of fault to plaintiff.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff on motorcycle alleged that he had the right-of-way and that defendant had a duty to yield the right-of-way to plaintiff when making her left-hand turn at the intersection.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant argued that plaintiff was lane-splitting between cars in the two opposing lanes of traffic at the time of the accident. Defendant claimed that the light had turned yellow or red and that opposing traffic had stopped and yielded to defendant before plaintiff entered the intersection.

    Defendant also claimed that plaintiff had come out of nowhere and entered the intersection between vehicles that had stopped in front of him. The defense presented the testimony of a witness to the accident, who claimed that plaintiff was lane-splitting between stopped cars and that plaintiff entered on a red light.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Left tibial shaft fracture.

Additional Notes

This verdict occurred after plaintiff already obtained judgment against defendants' insurer in an earlier declaratory relief action. Defendant's insurer sued Townsend and Olivo in a separate declaratory relief action in which defendant's insurer claimed Maria Olivo was a specifically excluded driver. Townsend prevailed against defendant's insurer in that action and established coverage before trying the injury case of Townsend v. Olivo. On June 12, 2019, the trial court denied defendants' new trial motion and defendants' motion for JNOV in the Townsend v. Olivo action.

Regarding settlement talks, before filing a lawsuit against the defendants, plaintiff made a policy limits settlement offer to defendants’ insurer, Century-National Insurance Company (August 2016). Defendants’ insurer rejected the settlement offer based on its contention that defendant Maria Olivo was not covered under the insurance policy (August 2016). Due to the rejection, plaintiff filed the bodily injury action against the defendants (August 2016). After filing the bodily injury action, Century-National filed a declaratory relief action against defendants and plaintiff to declare that Century-National’s policy did not provide coverage for Maria Olivo (October 2016). The declaratory relief action was tried before the bodily injury action was tried (March 2018). Plaintiff and defendants prevailed in the declaratory relief action against Century-National and coverage was established (June 2018). Upon losing the declaratory relief action, defendants’ insurer made a policy limits offer to plaintiff (June 2018). However, plaintiff did not accept the offer. Instead, plaintiff made a C.C.P. section 998 offer to compromise in the amount of $750,000 (November 2018). Defendants did not accept the offer. The case was tried (January/February 2019).

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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