A jury Placerville, CA, awarded $9,860,630 to a teenage girl who waiting at a school bus stop and was struck by a car that pinned her against a utility guy-wire, causing her to lose her right leg.
Following three weeks of evidence the jury found on January 24, 2016 that the defendant driver’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing injuries to Carly Bray, who was 17 when she was hit. It apportioned fault as follows: 50% defendant driver; 45% El Dorado Union High School District; and 5% County of El Dorado.
The jury deliberated for two days, according to plaintiff lawyers Catia G. Saraiva, Jason J. Sigel and Robert A. Buccola, all of Dreyer, Babich, Buccola Wood & Campora LLP, Sacramento, CA.
The case is Carly Bray v. Kassandra Hoelscher, No. PC20120677, Court Superior Court of El Dorado County, El Dorado, tried before Judge Daniel Proud. Prior to trial, the plaintiff settled with El Dorado Union High School District for $4.5 million and the County of El Dorado for $560,000.The intersection of Pony Express Trail and Mace Road in Camino, CA.
Plaintiff Carly Bray, 17, was waiting for her school bus on March 1, 2012, at a bus stop whose location had been used for approximately 25 years by El Dorado Union High School District at the intersection of Pony Express Trail and Mace Road in Camino, CA.
Defendant Kassandra Hoelscher was driving westbound on Pony Express Trail on her way to high school when she lost control of her 1992 Chevrolet Blazer at 15-20 miles per hour. The car slid into the bus stop, striking plaintiff at approximately 5 miles per hour and pinning her against a utility guy-wire, resulting in a traumatic amputation of plaintiff’s right leg just below the knee. Hoelscher was a senior in high school on her regular route to school when the accident happened.
Plaintiff Bray filed suit naming Hoelscher, the school district, and the County of El Dorado as defendants. Plaintiff alleged that the school district was liable for negligent placement of the school bus stop on the outside edge of a 45-mile per hour curve and that the county was liable for the dangerous condition of the curve on Pony Express Trail due to its inadequate banking.
Defendant Hoelscher denied liability throughout the litigation and trial, claiming:
The defendant’s expert traffic safety engineer testified that the intersection where the bus stop was located had an accident rate at least three times higher than similar intersections statewide and that the accident history provided years of notice to the county and school district that the bus stop needed to be moved long before the subject accident occurred.
The plaintiff’s traffic safety engineer testified that the irregular road banking and bus stop placement contributed to the accident. He had no opinion at trial that defendant Hoelscher did anything wrong. Plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert also testified that the irregular superelevation was a likely cause of defendant’s loss of control. The jury heard evidence that the bus stop was relocated after the subject accident due to safety concerns.
Because of the loss of her right leg, Bray was no longer able to participate in the physical activities she enjoyed before the accident including competitive volleyball, horseback riding, hiking, snowboarding, and swimming. She also contended that her injuries limit her future earning potential because she is no longer able to pursue her dream career as a registered nurse even though she had yet to begin nursing school at time of trial.
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Prior to her recent right leg infection Plaintiff was employed as a supermarket courtesy clerk which required her to be on her feet several hours per day. Plaintiff asked the jury to award future lifetime medical and prosthetic care for her injuries, as well as support services due to her inability to physically manage household chores as she ages.
After the accident, plaintiff was transported via life flight to Sutter Roseville Medical Center where she underwent knee disarticulation surgery to remove what remained of her right tibia and preserve the distal end of her femur to assist in weight bearing once fitted with a prosthesis. Bray received physical therapy, chiropractic care, and counseling for anxiety and PTSD. Recently, plaintiff’s right leg became infected at the amputation site requiring her to discontinue use of her prosthesis for several months.
Plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon and pain management/rehabilitation doctor testified that plaintiff’s desire to enter the field of nursing is not a good career choice even though for almost the last year she worked as a counter clerk at Raley’s requiring shifts of 6 to 8 hours on her feet. This was very hard on her, but she was able to endure this occupational pain.
The defense disputed the nature and extent of plaintiff’s injuries and damages and argued that the jury award less than plaintiff’s life care plan recommended for future pain medication due to evidence of plaintiff’s dislike of taking pain drugs.
Plaintiffs made a statutory demand of $2.9 million. Defendant offered her $100,000 policy limits with insurance from Safeco. Counsel in trial for Defendant indicated that Defendant would likely appeal at least one of the Court’s rulings.