Motorcycle passenger sues the driver. $1.9M in general damages. Monterey County.

Summary

Defendant at trial blames driver who settled out (empty chair).

The Case

  • Case Name: Hambrook v. Lafitte
  • Court and Case Number: Monterey County Superior Court / M133438
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, May 09, 2018
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, November 20, 2014
  • Type of Action: Vehicles - Motorcycle
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Marla O. Anderson
  • Plaintiffs:
    Laura Hambrook, 48.
  • Defendants:
    Jimmie Lafitte
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,925,000
  • Settlement Amount: Post verdict, defendant Lafitte settled for $365,000 and transferring title to two beach-front lots on the Monterey peninsula.
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    Jimmie Lafitte (Motocycle driver): $1,636,250 (85%)

    David Pierce (Driver of auto) : $288,750 (15%)

    David Pierce was a named defendant and driver of the Saturn. He settled out early in the case for the $100,000 policy limits of his insurance. A good faith settlement for this amount was approved by the court. He was an empty chair at trial and defendant Lafitte argued that Pierce was responsible for the injuries.

  • Economic Damages:

    None claimed.

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $425,000

    Future: $1,500,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 6 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 4 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 12-0

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Piccuta Law Group, LLP by Charles Tony Piccuta, Monterey.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:
  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Gomes, Hirshik & Hummel by David Hirshik, Martinez.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    David Lowenberg, M.D. (Treating orthopedic surgeon.)

    Paul Toogood, M.D. (Treating orthopedic surgeon.)

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    None at trial.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    None.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Robert Piziali, biomechanics and accident reconstruction, Menlo Park.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The case involved a motorcycle versus automobile collision that occurred on July 20, 2014 on Highway 1 in Moss Landing.

    Plaintiff Hambrook was the passenger on a motorcycle driven by her former boyfriend, the defendant, Jimmie Lafitte. The motorcycle collided with a Saturn automobile that was turning into a fruit stand that abutted Highway 1. Plaintiff was thrown to the ground as a result of the collision and sustained a grade 3B open tibia fibula compound fracture. She was air evacuated from the scene and received emergent surgery at San Jose Regional Medical Center where she underwent a tibia rodding.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contended that Lafitte was passing vehicles on the shoulder of Highway 1 and that his motorcycle collided with a Saturn driven by Pierce as Pierce attempted to turn into the parking lot of the fruit stand. Plaintiff contended that Lafitte was primarily at fault for causing her injuries and need for multiple surgeries.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant contended that he was going to the fruit stand and was not passing vehicles on the shoulder. Defendant claimed that he was in the parking lot of the fruit stand where he intended to stop for produce when the Saturn turned into the parking lot and struck his motorcycle. Defendant contended that Pierce (settled out, not a defendant at trial) was responsible for causing the collision and resulting injuries.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Grade 3B open tibia fibula compound fracture resulting in infection and eventually osteomyelitis which required several additional surgeries including multiple debridements and other surgeries to remove and replace the rod in plaintiff's tibia. 

    Plaintiff's physician, Dr. Lowenberg, was able to eliminate the infection without the need for amputation and testified that his prognosis for plaintiff to fully recover with no residual effects from the injury was 95% probability. The medical prognosis for plaintiff was so good, that defendant did not call the medical expert he had designated.

    Per defense counsel: Dr. Toogood, plaintiff’s treating physician, recommended a below-the-knee amputation. Plaintiff underwent nine surgeries in three years.

     

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Waived and none claimed.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: Waived and none claimed.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: None claimed.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: None Claimed.

Demands and Offers

  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: Per defense counsel: Defendant's $15,000 policy limit was timely tendered; plaintiff refused the limits and pursued the defendants personal assets.

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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