Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Crash of School Bus without Seat Belts

Attorney Mo Aziz of Houston Selected for Texas Super Lawyers 2015

Houston, TX, attorney Mo Aziz

Texas attorney Mo Aziz of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz is representing the parents of 10-year old Zyanna Harris who was killed November 21, 2016, when her school bus crashed in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Troy Pradia and Jonathan Cox of the Cox Pradia Law Firm and Luke Neder of Dale Buchanan & Associates are also part of the family’s legal team.

On November 21, 2016, Zyanna Harris was a passenger in a school bus when it rolled over and collided with a tree. Zyanna died from blunt force trauma.

Johnthony Walker, who had received his commercial driver’s license in April of 2016, had been in another accident while driving for Durham School Services, L.P. and National Express, LLC in September. In the past 24 months, Durham School Services has been involved in 346 crashes.

Defectively designed bus

The attorneys have also filed suit against Thomas Built Buses, Inc., a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, LLC. The bus in question was defectively designed because it did not include seatbelts. Additionally, the bus contained a window system that failed to prevent contact between the window glass and the roadway and failed to minimize the possibility of occupant ejection in foreseeable overturn/slide events.

“The negligence case against Walker and Durham School Services is clear. We also know that the bus manufacturer could have delivered a safer product into the stream of commerce by equipping this bus with seat belts and glazed shatter-resistant windows. The real question is whether those features would have lessened the harm to these innocent school children in this crash? That’s what I have been hired to determine,” said Aziz. Mr.

Aziz served on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the In Re: Hurricane Rita Evacuation Bus Fire, where he played a lead role in the $88 million settlement of the Hurricane Rita evacuation bus fire disaster, in which 23 elderly citizens perished. He has also served on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the Victoria Bus Litigation, where he represented 37 claimants from a single bus rollover accident near Victoria, Texas and resulted in a global settlement of $10.8 million.

Denver Jury Awards $52 Million Woman Paralyzed in Car Wreck

Attorney Tom Metier

Attorney Tom Metier

A Denver jury has awarded a Colorado Springs woman $52 million in a personal injury lawsuit. She suffered a cervical fracture and spinal cord injury at C6-7 in a vehicle collision and rollover.

Attorney Tom Metier, senior managing partner of the Metier Law Firm, represented the plaintiff along with attorneys Jim Gilbert, Phil Chupik, Tony Bolson and Anne Dieruf. With offices in Fort Collins, Denver, Cheyenne and Colorado Springs, Metier Law Firm focuses on brain and spine injury cases involving product liability, truck crashes, oil field injuries, motorcycle and auto crashes.

Four years ago, Mendy Brockman and her husband were driving southbound on Interstate 25 south of Castle Rock when a motorist crossed their lane in front of them to make a U-turn at an emergency median crossing.

The motorist hit Brockman’s car, causing it to roll several times. The accident resulted in the permanent paralysis of her legs and substantial loss of use of her hands. The woman is a wife and mother of four young children.

The lawsuit involved both a negligence claim against the at-fault driver and a product liability claim against the seatbelt manufacturer — Japan-based Takata Corp. — and the windshield maker of her Honda vehicle.

“This case had some unique challenges and, as always, I learned a lot in this process. We had a millennial jury, with six jurors ranging in age from 20-29. None of the jurors had children, except for one woman who was pregnant,” Metier said. “After deliberating for 8.5 hours, the jury returned their verdict in the exact amount I requested in closing argument.”

$4.5 Million Verdict in Miami Car Crash Injuring 89-Year-Old

Attorneys Jack Hickey and Bjorg Eikeland of Miami, FL.

Attorneys Jack Hickey and Bjorg Eikeland of Miami, FL.

A jury in Miami-Dade County Florida Circuit Court awarded $4.5 million on Sept. 16 to the family of an 89-year-old woman who suffered brain injuries when a commercial vehicle struck the car she was in.

Attorneys John H. (Jack) Hickey and Bjorg Eikeland with Hickey Law Firm represented the plaintiff as personal representative of the Estate of Maria Deposada.

Desposada was riding in a 3 series BMW on July 8, 2008, when a Ford Taurus ran a red light in midtown Miami and crashed broadside into her car. The Ford was leased by Pernod and driven by an intern for Pernod Ricard, USA LLC, a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard, the multinational liquor conglomerate. 

Permanent brain injury

The car Maria Deposada was riding in.

The car Maria Deposada was riding in.

Deposada suffered a subdural hematoma in the skull. After the hematoma caused a buildup of pressure on and damage to the brain, she underwent a craniotomy, surgery where part of the skull is removed temporarily to relieve pressure on the brain. The surgery was a success, but Deposada was left with a serious and permanent brain injury.

Deposada also suffered five fractured ribs, a fractured ankle, torn meniscus of the knee, two torn shoulder ligaments, and herniation of discs in the neck and back. For the most part, these injuries were missed even in 2 hospital admissions.

Deposada’s only real health issue before the car crash was a blood disorder arose during the last 6 months of her life. Deposada filed suit but died before the case came to trial

Energizer bunny

Before the car crash, Deposada was described as the “Energizer bunny.” She was seen in photos on a cruise to Europe walking without problems on cobblestone streets. The testimony was that after the crash, everything changed.

Pernod admitted liability, but it would not admit that the car crash caused any permanent injuries.

Pernod relied for its defense on notes by various physicians who were not treating Deposada for her car crash injuries. Pernod argued that Deposada was doing well after the crash and discounted objective tests—supported by the testimony of family and friends–that showed permanent and significant brain injury and orthopedic injuries.

“This case is a testament to the fact that our medical system rarely listens well to older people and that older people in the medical system and in the courts need advocates,” Hickey said.

The case is [name withheld v. Pernod Ricard, USA LLC, Circuit Court 11th Judicial Circuit, Miami-Dade County, Florida; Case No. 12-22050 CA 22.

$20M Award Against Trucking Company in Georgia Traumatic Brain Injury Trial

Michael Goldberg delivered the closing rebuttal for Ehsan Khan, who suffered permanent brain damage in a tractor trailer collision.

Michael Goldberg delivered the closing rebuttal for Ehsan Khan, who suffered permanent brain damage in a tractor trailer collision.

A State Court jury in Marietta, GA, awarded $20 million on August 10 for the catastrophic brain injury a Pakistani immigrant suffered in a 2013 collision with a tractor-trailer, according to CVN.

Ehsan Khan, 57, sustained lifelong brain damage when a tractor-trailer driven by John Teal ran a red light in Kennesaw, GA, and struck a car carrying Khan and his wife, Ghulam. The crash has left Khan, who emigrated from Pakistan in 2009 before becoming an American citizen, unable to walk or care for himself.

“We obviously had concerns as to whether the jury could look past the fact that our clients are Muslim and are from Pakistan,” say the Khans’ attorneys, Joe Fried and Michael Goldberg, of Fried Rogers Goldberg. “But the jury was able to do exactly what the law says to do. They looked at the evidence and put aside all prejudices and sympathies and awarded what the case was truly worth.”

The case is Khan v. Moore Freight Service Inc., et al., 14A-27627.

Jury Awards $5M to Passengers in Greyhound Crash When Driver Fell Asleep

Greyhound bus crash

The bus driver fell asleep, because she had inadequate sleep before getting behind the wheel for this overnight NYC to Cleveland route.

A Philadelphia jury awarded a $5.05 million verdict to four passengers in a case known as Hoang v. Greyhound. They were injured when a Greyhound bus collided with a tractor-trailer on Interstate 80 in Central Pennsylvania.

The jury found Greyhound and its driver, Sabrina Anderson, to have acted negligently and to have recklessly disregarded the lives of its passengers.

On July 22, 2016, after a six-week trial, the jury awarded separate verdicts to each of the four passengers, totaling $3.05 million in compensatory money damages and an additional $2 million in rarely awarded punitive damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter or punish Greyhound for “outrageous” conduct that was a factual cause in this crash.

According to court records, the jury found Greyhound and Anderson to be 100 percent at fault for the accident. More specifically, Anderson was found to be 55 percent negligent and Greyhound 45 percent negligent. Court records also confirmed that the jury also found that the conduct of defendant, Greyhound Bus Lines, Inc. was deemed “outrageous,” resulting in the punitive damages awarded to each of the plaintiffs.

Preventable fatigue-related crashes

“Greyhound must update and enforce its driver safety rules and fatigue management policies or these preventable, catastrophic, fatigue-related crashes will continue,” Lead Counsel Jon Ostroff said.

“The testimony of CEO David Leach made it clear that Greyhound places profit above the safety of its passengers,” Ostroff says. “Until Greyhound is restructured and safety is given adequate priority and oversight, particularly with respect to fatigue management of its drivers and enforcement of its safety rules, these fatigue-related highway crashes will likely continue.”

“It’s time for the government to intervene and create regulations intended to prevent these fatigue-related crashes from continuing. Appropriate regulations must be implemented, especially with inherently dangerous long routes like the one in our case, which was an overnight, 463-mile route with only one scheduled rest stop for the driver,” he says.

Greyhound’s Safety Director Alan Smith testified that Greyhound had not made any significant changes to its fatigue management program since 2006, which was before he and CEO Leach took over their positions. It is clear that if safety, including proper training and management of its drivers continues to be left in the hands of Greyhound without industry oversight, passengers will continue to be at risk.”

The individual verdict amounts were allocated by the jury to the four passengers as follows:

▪ $3 million for a 21-year-old woman who sustained cervical spine injuries, non- displaced broken bones in her foot, displaced tibia fibula fracture requiring surgery, skull and facial fractures and a traumatic brain injury;

▪ $850,000 for a man who suffered from jaw and dental injuries, a broken wrist, and knee and ankle injuries;

▪ $625,000 for a female passenger who sustained a concussion and underwent six months of chiropractic visits for a back sprain and strain, and

▪ $575,000 for a passenger who suffered from spinal sprain and strain and received approximately six medical treatments.

Driver fell asleep

“The evidence at trial in this 2013 crash clearly confirmed that the driver was driving recklessly and fell asleep, because she had inadequate sleep before getting behind the wheel for this overnight NYC to Cleveland route, “Ostroff says. “She appeared tired to passengers before they boarded, but Greyhound does not require that drivers be assessed for fatigue (or other potential medical, drug or alcohol impairment) by anyone at its NYC terminal before she departed.”

“Greyhound also did not enforce its own safety rules for any drivers of long routes, which requires ‘safety stops’ every 150 miles. The purpose of safety stops is to give the drivers an opportunity to remain alert and awake.”

A CNN investigative report studied this crash and the lack of Greyhound’s safety stop enforcement and confirmed that Greyhound drivers are required to make this 150-mile safety stop. They further confirmed that management does not enforce this safety rule, and CEO Leach is aware of this.

“They don’t enforce their 150 miles safety rule because it costs them money,” Ostroff told CNN. “I would never allow anyone in my family or anyone I know and love to ride on a Greyhound bus.”

Settling cases in hospital rooms

On the day of the crash, Greyhound representatives made settlement offers and sought statements and medical authorizations from many passengers. Greyhound Vice President of Customer Experience Myron Watkins was the highest-ranking executive who was overseeing Greyhound’s response to this crash. Watkins testified that he was aware that adjusters and managers acting on behalf of Greyhound were approaching injured passengers at various hospitals and approaching and entering the hospital rooms of injured passengers.

One plaintiff in this recent trial was hospitalized for a concussion and back injuries. According to Greyhound documents, an adjuster acting on behalf of Greyhound was aware that she was admitted as a concussion patient and was “groggy,” but still attempted to end her injury claim by offering her $1,000 from Greyhound to settle her injury claim from her hospital bed. A Greyhound Terminal Manager also entered her room and approached her later that day. The company then offered the same client $45,000 shortly before trial. Her verdict of $625,000 in the recent Hoang v. Greyhound trial, was almost 14 times this pre-trial amount.

Ostroff Injury Law succeeded in obtaining the first ever release of claims handling documents and memorandums from the company handling the injury claims in collaboration with Greyhound. Greyhound attempted to prevent the release of these documents by withholding them for over a year, until the Superior Court upheld the plaintiffs’ right to obtain these documents. Greyhound’s appeal to the Pa Supreme Court was denied.

 

The trial team of attorneys at Ostroff Injury Law that obtained the Hoang v. Greyhound verdict were Jon Ostroff, Lou Ricciardi, William Coppol, Richard Godshall and Ryan Jablonski.

Ostroff Injury Law still represents 12 passengers injured in this crash. This trial was the first of four scheduled trials, each one on behalf of four clients – including the Estate of Son Thih Than Hoang, who was ejected and killed in this crash.

Ostroff Injury Law is located in Plymouth Meeting, PA and represents victims worldwide who are injured or killed in Greyhound Bus crashes. For more information, visit OstroffLaw.com.

Porsche Evades Liability for Driver of Carrera GT in Paul Walker Crash

paul walker

A California district court dismissed a wrongful death and survival lawsuit brought against distributor Porsche Cars North America, Inc. by the widow of the driver killed along with actor Paul Walker IV in November 2013.

Kristine Rodas’ late husband, Roger Rodas, was a car enthusiast and experienced racecar driver who owned five to 10 Porsche vehicles and drove the Porsche Carrera GT that crashed killing him and actor Paul Walker.

While Rodas drove the Porsche Carrera GT with Paul Walker as a passenger, the car crashed while going 72 to 90 mph around a curve. After going into a spin, the car slid off the road and struck three trees and a light pole causing the car to split in two pieces and explode.

Driver autopsy

Rodas suffered three sets of injuries, “each of which was independently fatal,” according to the opinion. The first injuries were an atlanto-occipital dislocation (head dislocation from spinal column), hinge fracture of the skull, and associated brain stem laceration caused by direct impact of his head to a tree or light pole in the car’s window opening.

The second set of injuries was multiple skull fractures, with extensive fracturing on his right side, toward Walker. The third fatal set of fatal injuries multiple rib fractures, lung lacerations and contusions. The opinion states that during each of the car collisions with the trees and pole provided opportunity for Rodas and Walker to collide with one another, each having sufficient energy to potentially cause Rodas’ injuries.

Lawsuits in both District and State court

Rodas filed a lawsuit against Porsche in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Porsche removed the action to the district court and filed several motions to dismiss.

After Porsche submitted two motions to dismiss, Rodas’ remaining claims were based on four allegations including absence of a crash cage, substandard side impact protection, right rear toe adjuster rod failure, and lack of a fuel cell.

At the same time, Meadow Rain Walker, Paul Walker’s daughter, filed an action in the Los Angeles Superior Court against the car’s designer-manufacturer and original seller, Porsche Aktiengesellschaft (Porsche AG) and Cranbrook Partner, Inc. (Cranbrook), respectively, for the death of her father, Paul Walker IV.

Rodas’ counsel failed to amend the district court complaint to include Porsche AG and Cranbrook. Instead, she filed two subsequent actions, one in her name and the other on behalf of her children in the Los Angeles Superior Court alleging the same causes of action as in the original district court action against Porsche, naming Porsche AG and Cranbrook as defendants.

Rodas filed four motions to remand the district court case to subsequent state court actions, but the district court denied her motions in March 2016. In its denial, the court found that Rodas’ counsel appeared to be “forum shopping in order to rectify its own errors and avoid an adverse ruling by this Court” because she failed to add Porsche AG or Cranbrook to the district court action.

Porsche escapes liability

Porsche filed a motion for summary judgement on all of Rodas’ claims, arguing that Rodas provided no evidence that her allegations were the cause of her late husband’s death. Rodas did not provide any evidence showing liability, besides the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) accident report and her expert witness preliminary report, which only discussed the right rear toe adjuster rod suspension failure.

Rodas conceded to Porsche’s claims that she did not present any evidence that the absence of a crash cage, substandard side impact protection, or the lack of a fuel cell caused her husband’s death. Rodas focused on her expert witness’s theory on the failed suspension rod.

Rodas conceded and even supported Porsche’s arguments for summary judgment, admitting in her amended complaint that “no crash cage could prevent Rodas from moving…within the occupant compartment, and no crash cage could have prevented Rodas and Walker from colliding with each other.”

Plaintiff concedes to three of four claims

Concerning the substandard side impact protection, Rodas’ own expert opined that any unexpected “poor side impact performance…did not play a role” in Rodas’ death. Rodas further conceded that Porsche, as a car distributor, was not involved in the side impact testing, which nevertheless indicated that the Porsche Carrera GT “not only passed, but…performed better than required” on all side impact regulations that applied to the car.

Rodas’ initial complaint claimed the fuel tank ruptured and spilled fuel on the engine, causing the fire. However, Porsche provided evidence that the fuel tank was not compromised and remained intact until after the fire and after Rodas death.

The court, agreeing with Porsche’s motion for summary judgement, and using Rodas’ own information from her complaint, granted summary judgement to Porsche on these issues.

Lastly, on the issue of the failed suspension, the court granted summary judgement in favor of Porsche, finding her expert witness’s theory in his report was “speculative and unreliable.” The court wrote that the expert used “somewhat circular reasoning” from his observations of the tire patterns, concluding the failed rod caused the car to swing and yaw off the road.

Expert report unreliable

It was later discovered the expert used inaccurate information that conflicted with the LASD reports, and later submitted a supplemental declaration that directly contradicted his initial report. The court notes further that Rodas failed to submit the declaration before the deadline it set for additional disclosures, however, even if submitted on time, the court found it improper because it presented impermissible new arguments and was not a response to “new unforeseen facts.”

In granting Porsche’s motion for summary judgement, the court wrote that Rodas did not provide any evidence to prove the accident was caused by a failed rod suspension, and the only evidence of the expert opinion offered was inadmissible to the court. The survival and wrongful death claims were dismissed because no evidence competently showed Rodas’ death occurred because of any wrongdoing by Porsche.

Rodas’ Los Angeles Superior Court case alleging the same claims against Porsche Aktiengesellschaft and Cranbrook Partner, Inc. is still pending.

The case is Kristine Rodas v. Porsche Cars North America, Inc., et al., Case no. CV14-3747 PSG, in the United States District Court Central District of California.

$51.5M Jury Award for Woman Severely Injured by Tractor-Trailer

Caleb Didriksen of Didriksen, Saucier, Woods & Pichon, PLC in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Caleb Didriksen of Didriksen, Saucier, Woods & Pichon, PLC in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The family of a New Orleans woman who was severely injured by an 18-wheeler and left with a brain injury filed a lawsuit over the incident, and was awarded $51.5 million by a jury.

Connie Jones Marable was injured in 2012 in New Orleans East in a parking lot when “her husband’s 2007 Freightliner truck moved despite having its emergency brake on,” according to the lawsuit. News sources state that the woman attempted to help her husband stop the vehicle when it started moving forward despite having the emergency brake on, and she was then “pinned” under its wheels and dragged for some time. The accident left her with physical injuries and a severe brain injury, and in a “minimally conscious state under 24-7 nursing care.”

The plaintiff’s attorney was Caleb Didriksen of Didriksen, Saucier, Woods & Pichon, PLC in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The lawsuit was filed by her two adult children, and the jury found Daimler Trucks to be 90% at fault in the incident (Freightliner Trucks is a division of Daimler Trucks North America LLC).

Chris Janish, CEO of Legal-Bay, commented on the tragic incident, “Accidents involving severe personal injury can be devastating. Victims, or their loved ones, who find themselves in similar situations are reminded that we are here to assist them with getting their lives back on track following such tragic instances.”

Texas Cow in The Road Case: Frivolous Appeal by Doc Corralled and Dismissed

Cowintheroad

Do Texas statutes regarding a physician’s departure from standards of safety govern the doc’s errant herd of cattle? No way, says an appeals court that sanctioned him.

What happens when a cow crosses the road in Texas?

It can lead to bizarre litigation on whether state medical malpractice laws protect a doctor who tried to weasel out of a lawsuit brought by a man who crashed into the cows and was injured.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas not only dismissed an appeal by the cattle farmer, who is also a retired doctor, but also awarded the plaintiff $2,205 in attorney fees for having to fight the frivolous appeal.

Bovine malpractice?

Plaintiff Bobby Tunnell of Texas was the passenger in a pickup truck that struck at least one loose cow in a road in August 2011, causing the truck to roll over eight times. He filed a negligence, negligence per se and violation of safety standards action against the cattle owners, including Richard K. Archer, MD.

Among the doc’s many defenses was a wacky claim that a suit over a departure from safety standards was really a health care liability claim, with limited recovery allowed under state med-mal tort reform laws.

No Grounds for Appeal

The doc’s motion to dismiss failed and he appealed. Meanwhile a state supreme ruled that there “must be a substantive nexus between the safety standards allegedly violated and the provision of health care.” Ross v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital 462 S.W.3d 496 (Tex. 2015).

Doc Archer persisted in his appeal that he should have the broad protections given to physicians under the medical malpractice tort reform in Texas. Tunnell called the appeal “patently frivolous” because it was based on an argument that was overruled by the state supreme court.

An appeal is frivolous “when the record does not provide reasonable grounds for the advocate to believe that the case could be reversed.”

The appeals court cut the discussion short, holding that no statute permitted an interlocutory appeal in the first place, and dismissed it — adding that his additional argument that ERISA pre-empted the case was frivolous.

Tunnell’s lawyer said in an affidavit that he spent 6.3 hours at $350 per hour fighting the pointless appeal, and requested $2,205 in fees.  The appeals court granted Tunnell’s request for damages.

The wild and wooly case is Archer et al, appellants v. Tunnell, appellee, No. 05-15-00459-CV, Feb. 9, 2016, Court of Appeals, Fifth District of Texas at Dallas.

 

Girl Who Lost Leg When Hit by Car Recovers $9.86 Million from Teen Driver

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.

intersection

The intersection of Pony Express Trail and Mace Road in Camino, CA.

Dangerous curve, icy road

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:

  • Her travel speed was slow and that her loss of control was excusable because of the icy roadway conditions and characteristics of the roadway.
  • But for the negligent placement of the school bus stop on the outside of county’s dangerous curve, plaintiff would not have been injured.  
  • She lost control of her vehicle while traveling only 15 to 25 miles per hour in conditions plaintiff’s accident reconstruction and meteorology experts conceded were snowy and icy at the time the collision occurred.

High accident rate

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.

Damage caused by amputation

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.

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.

Plaintiff Expert(s)

  • Carol Hyland, M.A., M.S., C.D.M.S., C.L.C.P., life care planning, Lafayette, CA
  • Paul Gregory, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Sacramento, CA
  • Robert Caldwell, P.E., accident reconstruction, Lafayette, CO
  • Elizabeth Austin, Ph.D., atmospheric physics/meteorology, Incline Village, NV
  • Sanjog S. Pangarkar, M.D., Los Angeles, CA
  • Sean Shimada, Ph.D., biomechanics, Davis, CA
  • Charles L. Scott, M.D., forensic psychiatry, Sacramento, CA
  • Richard F. Ryan, P.E., traffic safety engineering, Vancouver, WA
  • Richard Barnes, forensic economist, CPA/ABV/CFF
  • John Michael, Med, CPO/L, prosthetic care, Chicago, IL

$5.9 Million Award Affirmed in Ford Failed Airbag Strict Liability Suit

2005 Mercury SableA Pennsylvania court denied Ford’s appeal to overturn the plaintiff’s verdict in a strict products liability suit, affirming a lower court’s judgment and the plaintiff retains his $5.9 million award.

After an eight-day trial a jury found Ford Motor Company liable for plaintiff, John A. Cancelleri’s injuries after the airbags in his 2005 Mercury Sable failed to deploy during a car accident.

Cancelleri had filed suit against Ford, the manufactuer of the Mercury Sable, and the dealership. He claimed a breach of implied warranty of witness, punitive damages, negligence, and strict liability.

A Ford Mustang that attempted to make a left turn into plaintiff’s lane struck the plaintiff. Cancelleri sustained back and spinal cord injuries because of the incident.

Crash reports excluded

Ford argued the verdict should be overturned and they were entitled to a new trial. Ford believed a new trial was necessary because crash reports were excluded, the jury was not asked whether the Plaintiff’s vehicle was unreasonably dangerous, and there was an error in jury instructions.

The court agreed that whether the vehicle was unreasonably dangerous could be a consideration but that a new trial was not necessary. A jury is only required to determine if the vehicle’s design was defective and if any alternatives could have been used at the time the Sable was made.

Excluding the reports of state and industry standards was proper because there was a potential to confuse the jury on the real issue in this case, the quality or design of the product, the court concluded.

Evidence such as the crash reports were previously precluded by the court or were not introduced during the trial thus could not be used.

This case is John A. Cancelleri v. Ford Motor Company, Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Case No. 267MDA2015.