$700,000 – Personal Injury
Defendant Driver rented a Pace Aero Motor Home from Blue Chip Motor Homes for a trip to Mexico with plaintiffs. The defendant had never driven a motor home before, but planned to tow a 16-foot catamaran. He received information from Blue Chip before taking it out later in the afternoon. According to the testimony of one plaintiff, Defendant Driver drank several beers during the hours it took to prepare for the trip. According to another plaintiff and Defendant Driver himself, the only stable seatbelt anyone could find in the vehicle was for the driver. The group left at approximately 9:00 p.m. and headed eastbound on Interstate 8 in dry, clear conditions. The plaintiffs testified that they (along with the other passengers) asked the driver to slow down on multiple occasions. The plaintiffs felt that at several times the driver did not have control of the vehicle. The plaintiffs also testified that the driver had at least one more drink while on the road.
The parties made a stop in order to tack down something that had become loose. At this time, they all became aware of some strong winds. However, the plaintiffs testified that the driver continued to drive at what they considered an excessive rate of speed, a position disputed by the defendants. As the motorhome headed down a steep grade, it was hit by a gust of wind. This caused the driver to slam on the brakes and lock the wheels. The motorhome then skidded over to the right shoulder of the roadway, over a six-inch asphalt curb, and down a 110-foot embankment.
Plaintiffs contended that Blue Chip Motor Homes was liable for its failure to provide adequate access to seatbelts for the passengers. The plaintiffs also contended Blue Chip did not provide adequate instruction or training in the operation of a motor home to defendant Sinks. The plaintiffs contended Defendant Driver was negligent for driving at an excessive rate of speed. They also contended he was intoxicated at the time the accident occurred. Defendant Driver had a blood alcohol level of .01%.
Defendants contended that the accident was caused by “an act of God” due to the high winds. The defendants also contended that the plaintiffs were contributorily negligent for riding with the driver with knowledge he had been drinking. Defendant Driver denied travelling at an excessive speed and denied any relevance to alcohol consumption.
Plaintiff 1 suffered a burst fracture at T-11 and underwent a laminectomy at T-10/T-11. She sustained a reduction of intraspinal fragments and decompression of the spinal cord and T-11 nerve root with placement of Harrington-Edwards rods from T-9 to L-l. She also suffers from residual back pain and discomfort. Plaintiff 2 suffered a 20% compression fracture of L-1; a comminuted inter-articular fracture of the anterior superior aspect of the calcaneus; an avulsion fracture of the right foot; particle avulsion; anterior cruciate ligament damage; and a chondral defect of the right knee with residual discomfort in her back and knee.
Plaintiff 1: Past Medicals-$46,000. Loss of Income-$80,000. Future Loss of Income-$600,000.
Plaintiff 2: Past Medicals-$37,000. Loss of Income $15,000.
The plaintiffs demanded $800,000 per C.C.P §998 for Plaintiff 1 and $250,000 per C.C.P. §998 for Plaintiff 2. The defendant offered $400,000 and $100,000 respectively. Plaintiff 1 settled for $500,000 cash, and Plaintiff 2 settled for $150,000 cash.