Tractor-trailer strikes bicyclists, killing one and injuring the other. $182,000 verdict for injured cyclist. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Plaintiff and her boyfriend were bicycle riding and struck by a tractor trailer. Plaintiff's boyfriend died. She suffered injuries and was awarded $182,000.  Separate settlement for wrongful death.  Los Angeles County.

The Case

  • Case Name: Montana Jones v. Robert Duane Zambrano and Ruan Transport Corporation
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court - Compton/ TC024756
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, September 06, 2012
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
  • Type of Action: Vehicles - Tractor Trailers
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. William Barry
  • Plaintiffs:
    Montana Jones, 16
  • Defendants:
    Robert Duane Zambrano, truck driver
    Ruan Transport Corporation, employer of Mr. Zambrano
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $182,466
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: The jury found negligence and causation as to Zambrano; negligence but no causation as to plaintiff.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical: $29,466


    Future medical: $30,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $60,000

    Future: $63,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 10 days for second trial after mistrial in the sixth day of first trial.
  • Jury Polls: Negligence: 12-0; Causation: 11-1; Comparative negligence: 10-2; Causation: 12-0; Damages: 12-0

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Stolpman, Krissman, Elber & Silver, LLP by Tom Stolpman, Long Beach
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    McElfish Law Firm by Raymond McElfish, Los Angeles

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
    James London, M.D., orthopedic surgery, San Pedro
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
    Charles Lane, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Beverly Hills
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Tim Reust, accident reconstruction, Valencia
    Corinne Hickson, Ph.D., clinical psychology, Torrance

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff, age 16, was riding her bicycle eastbound with her boyfriend on the south sidewalk of Del Amo Boulevard in Dominguez Hills.  They rode into the crosswalk to cross the street.  Defendant Zambrano, operating a tractor trailer owned by his employer, Ruan Transport Corp., was making a right turn from southbound Susana Road to westbound Del Amo when he struck the bicyclists in the crosswalk, killing plaintiff's boyfriend and injuring plainitff Montana, who was thrown from her bicycle into the intersection.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant stopped for the red signal for southbound traffic 5 feet past the limit line and therefore was not legally able to negotiate a right turn on red; that he did so without adequately checking for pedestrians or bicyclists on the sidewalk, thereby entitling plaintiff to be given a negligence per se instruction, which was given by the Court.

    Although a Los Angeles County ordinance prohibits bicyclists from riding on the sidewalk, the California Supreme Court has held in dicta that the only class of persons sought to be protected by the ordinance are other pedestrians, and therefore no negligence per se instruction was appropriate. Since the bicyclists were on the sidewalk and in the crosswalk, signals for traffic on the roadway did not apply to them, and the pedestrian walk/don’t walk signals also did not apply to bicyclists. Although there were obstructions to the field of vision of the driver, the bicyclists were visible to him from his cab for more than 5 seconds before the impact with plaintiff’s bicycle.

    That plaintiff was entitled to emotional distress she suffered as a result of the accident and from seeing her boyfriend killed. The Court ruled that she could recover only for emotional distress arising from her physical injuries.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the driver came to a stop as required by law, and looked for oncoming traffic and at the sidewalk. His vision was obstructed by a fence, shrubs and a tree on the adjoining property. That plaintiff should not have been riding on the side of the street facing traffic; she had a red signal when she entered the crosswalk. That plaintiff’s claimed injuries and emotional distress were exaggerated.

    That regarding the Los Angeles County ordinance, the dicta ruling did not say what the court believed it said. Therefore, the bicyclist could not comply with or be deemed to have violated any vehicle or traffic code because bicyclists were not supposed to be on the sidewalk to begin with. (That issue has been preserved for appeal.)

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff claimed permanent injuries to her right wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome), a shoulder impingement and to her neck. With medical and chiropractic treatment continuing through trial.

    She will require surgery on the wrist and the shoulder in the future.

    The defense expert, Charles, Lane, testified that Montana had minor soft tissue injuries which were resolved shortly after the collision.

  • Plaintiff continues to see a therapist to deal with nightmares and fears she has from her experience in the accident and will require life-long counseling.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $29,466
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $300,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiff will seek attorneys fees based on denials of Requests for Admissions.

The defense will seek a new trial and/or Judgment NOV and attorneys fees incurred during a mistrial due to questions asked which were deemed by the Court (under the Long rule) to violate its order prelcuding any mention of the death of plaintiff's boyfriend, Jakob Weathermon (whose parents settled before trial.)

 

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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