Truck driver's leg amputated after warehouse accident. $10.5M. Yolo County.

Summary

Trial is suspended in March when COVID-19 shuts down the courts; trial is completed in late June after jury deliberates without alternates.

The Case

  • Case Name: Bhupinder Singh and Reena Rani v. Capay Inc
  • Court and Case Number: Yolo County Superior Court / 2017-2105-3
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, July 06, 2020
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, December 12, 2017
  • Type of Action: Workplace Accident, Misc., Highlighted Verdicts
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Samuel T. McAdam
  • Plaintiffs:
    Bhupinder Singh, 37, truck driver
    Reena Rani
  • Defendants:
    Capay, Inc
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $10,556,489.79
  • Net Verdict or Award: $7,917,367.28
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 75% on defendant; 25% contributory negligence on plaintiff.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical: 

    $126,401.71 (stipulated Howell amount)

    Future medical: $1,680,088

    Past lost earnings: Waived

    Future loss of earnings capacity: $1,000,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $2,000,000

    Future: $5,000,000

    Loss of consortium: $750,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 weeks.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP by Ricardo Echeverria and Kristin Hobbs, Claremont.

    Stuart R. Chandler PC by Stuart R. Chandler, Fresno.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Taylor | Anderson LLP by Brent D. Anderson, Katherine Wittenberg, and Christopher Mordy, Denver, CO.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Douglas Smith, M.D., orthopedics with specialty in amputation.

    Drew Hittenberger, CPO, prosthetics, Petaluma.

    Carol Hyland, life care planning, Lafayette.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    George Gendy, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Glendale, AZ.

    Rick Riley, CPO, prosthetics, Washoe Valley NV.

    Karen Aznavoorian, life care planning, Fresno.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Rick Sarkisian, Ph.D., vocational rehabilitation, Fresno.

    Michael Braun, P.E., accident reconstruction, Livermore.

    Paul Herbert, forklift/truck driving.

    Charles Mahla, economics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Steven Koobatian, Ph.D., vocational rehabilitation, Visallia.

    Eric Volk, economics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On July 21, 2017, plaintiff, a truck driver, arrived at a warehouse to pick up produce. The warehouse was located in Capay (near Sacramento), and owned by Capay Inc.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    As plaintiff Singh was inside the warehouse watching a forklift load pallets of tomatoes into his trailer, he walked across the warehouse. He said he was concerned about the weight distribution inside the trailer and wanted to get a better view of how the trailer was being loaded. At that moment, Capay’s forklift operator, Jose Perez, backed up his forklift and ran over plaintiff's right leg, crushing it. Plaintiff ultimately required a below-the-knee amputation as a result of the collision.

    Plaintiff contended that Perez was negligent because he did not look back in the direction of travel when he put his forklift in reverse, backing into plaintiff. By not looking back, Perez violated state, industry and Capay’s own rules regarding the safe operation of a forklift. Those rules require operators to always look in the direction of travel to make sure everything is clear and that there are no pedestrians in the way. Plaintiffs further contended that Perez failed to designate a safe area for the truck drivers to stand during the loading process.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    The defense contended that plaintiff was the sole cause of the accident. They claimed that he was specifically instructed to stay out of the active forklift operating zone and to stand in the corner. They pointed out that by his own admission, plaintiff did nothing to get the attention of the forklift driver, Perez, to alert him that plaintiff was going to walk across the active loading zone.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Amputation, right leg (below the knee); prosthesis; decreased range of motion.

    After the accident, plaintiff was taken by ambulance to Kaiser Hospital in Vacaville. A surgeon performed an emergency “open” amputation” that evening. Two days later a “definitive” amputation was performed. Singh was discharged home after 11 days in the hospital. The past medical bills were stipulated to be $126,401 (the amount actually paid by MediCal).

    With respect to future medical expenses, the main disagreement between the parties related to future surgeries. Plaintiffs contended that Singh would need one major revision surgery to his residual limb and four minor revisions. The defense argued that Singh made a great recovery and there was no need for major surgery. With respect to his prosthetic leg needs, both sides agreed that plaintiff Singh would need a daily use leg, an aquatic leg, and an activity leg for exercise. The main dispute was that plaintiffs proffered that Singh required a fourth back-up daily use leg and the defense claimed that the aquatic or activity leg could serve as a back-up. Plaintiffs also sought recovery for a microprocessor foot and ankle for the daily use leg, which defendant contended was contraindicated.

    There was no claim for past lost earnings. Plaintiffs did claim loss of earning capacity since Singh could not return to work as a truck driver. Instead, he found employment as a dispatcher, making less money than he was previously making.

  • Plaintiff Reena Rani, Singh's wife, sought recovery for loss of consortium.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $8,000,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $3,000,000

Additional Notes

Of note, the trial commenced March 2, 2020. After plaintiffs rested, and with just 3-4 days left to complete the trial, Judge McAdam was forced to clear the courtroom due to COVID-19. He proposed resuming the trial when safe to do so at a later date. The parties and all jurors agreed. The trial resumed on June 29 under strict but manageable guidelines. Everyone wore a face mask or shield. The courtroom was regularly sanitized, including sanitizing the witness stand after each witness. Some of the jurors were seated in the courtroom’s gallery so that everyone was socially distanced (at least 6 feet apart). Of the 12 jurors and two alternates impaneled, only one asked to be (and was) excused out of health concerns when the trial resumed. Another juror was excused because of family emergency. Thus, the final remaining 12 jurors completed the trial with no alternates. The jurors reported being pleased to complete the trial with the safety measures implemented by Judge McAdam.      

Insurers: CHUBB:  $1 million plus $2 million excess; Great American:  $17 million, excess for a total of $20 million in policy limits.

 

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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