Plaintiff who had been drinking suffers injuries after his car is hit by truck. $990K verdict. Los Angeles County.
A driver who had been drinking says freeway accident was caused by trucker, not him, and that a subsequent impact from a third vehicle was caused by that vehicle's negligent driver.
- Case Name: Ruben Lee Minjarez v. Robert G. Guss, et. al.
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles County Superior Court / NC057708
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, November 15, 2016
- Date Action was Filed: Thursday, June 07, 2012
- Type of Action: Vehicles - Truck vs. Auto
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Lawrence Riff
- Plaintiffs: Ruben Minjarez, 29, marine diver.
- Defendants: Robert Guss, Fastrucking.com LLC, Jerry Abasta
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $990,438.90
- Net Verdict or Award: $790,438.90
- Award as to each Defendant:
Fastrucking.com, LLC and Jerry Abasta: $790,438.90
Robert G. Guss: $0
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 75% to Fastrucking.com, LLC and Jerry Abasta. 25% to plaintiff.
- Economic Damages:
Medical specials: $125,438.90
Loss of earnings: $65,000
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 9 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 days.
- Jury Polls: 9-3 (Fastrucking.com, LLC, Jerry Abasta negligence), 9-3 (Fastrucking.com, LLC, Jerry Abasta causation), 10-2 (Robert G. Guss negligence), 10-2 (Robert G. Guss causation), 12-0 (economic damages), 10-2 (noneconomic damages)
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Pending.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Curd, Galindo & Smith, LLP by Alexis Galindo, Long Beach.
Law Offices of William Kennon, William Kennon, Santa Ana.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Knapp, Petersen & Clarke, LLP by Stephen Pasarow, Glendale. (For Guss.)
Tharpe & Howell, LLP by Matthew Gibbs, Sherman Oaks. (For Fastrucking.com, LLC and Jerry Abasta.)
- Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Darrell O. Clardy, Ph.D., forensic toxicology, Brea.
Brent Ogawa, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Harbor City. (Treating physician.)
Ilene Zackowitz, Ph.D., human factors, Carlsbad.
- Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
Robert Wilson, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Beverly Hills.
- Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Eric Deyerl, accident reconstruction, Culver City.
- Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Jason Arst, accident reconstruction, Carson.
Anthony Stein, Ph.D., human factors, La Cañada.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Plaintiff Ruben Lee Minjarez, a marine diver, sued defendant Jerry Abasta and his employer, defendant Fastrucking.com, LLC, and defendant Robert G. Guss, in connection with an automobile collision that occurred on June 8, 2010 at approximately 10:10 p.m. Prior to the accident, plaintiff was at a sports bar in Huntington Beach where he drank alcohol.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That when he was traveling northbound in the far right lane on Interstate 405 in Long Beach, near the Pacific Ave. onramp, a truck driven by defendant Jerry Abasta made an unsafe lane change from the #3 to #4 lane, hitting plaintiff’s vehicle on the rear driver’s side, which caused the plaintiff’s vehicle to spin and move across all of the northbound lanes, coming to rest perpendicular in the HOV lane after hitting the center divider.
Shortly thereafter, plaintiff’s vehicle was struck by a white Mercedes, driven by former defendant Marshall Golden, causing plaintiff’s vehicle to rotate again, coming to rest between the HOV and #1 lanes. After plaintiff attempted to start his vehicle to no avail, he saw headlights coming his way and exited his vehicle. Plaintiff alleged that defendant Robert G. Guss failed to exercise reasonable care in traveling at an unsafe speed for the traffic conditions, as a multi-vehicle collision had already occurred with Golden’s Mercedes stopped in the #3 lane ahead and several vehicles slowing or stopping to assist on the shoulder.
Plaintiff also contended that Guss was tailgating and failed to brake or execute any precautionary swerving maneuver, which caused plaintiff’s car to be crushed under Guss’s GMC Yukon. Plaintiff was injured when the vehicle driven by Guss struck the plaintiff, causing his body to be catapulted into the southbound lanes of traffic, leading to multiple facial, head and bilateral tibia/fibula fractures, internal injuries, and a facial de-gloving injury.
Medical records showed that plaintiff’s blood alcohol was a 0.13. Plaintiff contended that his alcohol consumption did not contribute to his harm. Defendant’s expert Dr. Stein agreed that if the truck driven by Mr. Abasta came into contact with plaintiff’s vehicle, nothing plaintiff could have done would have prevented the accident.
- Defendant's Contentions:
Fastrucking.com, LLC denied liability for employee Jerry Abasta’s negligence, claiming that the truck driven by Abasta did not make contact with the plaintiff’s vehicle, while claiming that the plaintiff alone was negligent in driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Fastrucking.com, LLC also contended that plaintiff made an unsafe lane change, which caused the plaintiff’s car to collide with the center divider from the far right lane of traffic, leading to the plaintiff’s subsequent injuries.
Robert G. Guss claimed that plaintiff alone was negligent in driving under the influence of alcohol, denying liability. Guss’s main contention was that he acted reasonably under the circumstances and was unable to avoid collision with the plaintiff’s vehicle after it had come to rest between the HOV and #1 lanes. Both defendants stipulated that the plaintiff’s past medical expenses totaled $125,438.90
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Plaintiff claimed he sustained bilateral tibia and fibula fractures which required open reduction and internal fixation, a left orbital wall fracture, nasal bone fracture, facial head injuries, and a facial de-gloving injury.
He underwent several surgeries to correct these injuries. Plaintiff also had a subsequent rodding surgery on his left tibia, which had not properly healed and caused pain.
Plaintiff was unable to work for approximately one year as he healed and learned to walk again. Plaintiff also claimed past and future pain, mental suffering, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $125,438.90
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: None.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $65,000 as marine diver.
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: None.
Demands and Offers
- Defendant Final Offer before Trial: Defendants Fastrucking.com, LLC and Jerry Abastal: $50,000. Defendant Robert G. Guss: $20,000.