Driver killed in crash with county garbage truck.
This case resulted in the highest award in Tulare County -- $25,000,000
including annuities -- at the time (2008) for an automobile accident case.
The decedent was struck at an intersection in Pixley, California, by a
“youth- group” volunteer driving a county garbage truck. The
plaintiff contended the volunteer was speeding but there were no eyewitnesses.
Bennett Johnson ultimately determined that the truck was connected to a
GPS that tracked the time and location of each garbage pick up. By comparing
the time of the last garbage pick up with the time of the accident, we
were able to prove the defendant had driven over 75 mph on a 55 mph road
to reach the accident site by the time it occurred. The plaintiff also
successfully proved that the intersection and controls at the subject
intersection did not meet county road standards. We also proved the stop
signs were obscured by a fruit stand on the corner of the intersection,
which blocked line of site clearances by approaching vehicles which had
been erected without a county permit. After the county denied knowing
the fruit stand had been erected, the plaintiff obtained videotapes from
a gas station adjacent to the fruit stand that showed county administrative
personnel purchasing fruit from the stand. In particular, both the director
of public works and the head of the county permit department, whose departments
issued and enforced the permit section that applied to the area where
the fruit stand was erected, were identified on the tapes.
Family suffers catastrophic injuries due to defective car fuel cap lock
The plaintiff’s “older” model car was side swiped, causing
it to roll over. Several members of the plaintiff’s family were
severely burned when fuel escaped from the exposed fuel port on the vehicle.
The uninsured responsible driver and California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer
claimed the plaintiff didn’t have a fuel cap on his car, and so
it was plaintiff’s fault the car caught fire.
Bennett Johnson took on a case that had been refused by numerous large
plaintiffs firms. We first sent an investigator to the scene of the accident
at an overcrossing of a railroad track. The plaintiff swore he had a “keyed
gas cap” and described it in detail to the CHP and Multidisciplinary
Accident Investigation Team officers after the accident. They concluded
he had a “rag” in the fuel port, not a gas cap. The firm’s
investigator found a charred “keyed” fuel cap under the overpass.
Forensic x-ray evidence proved that the plaintiff’s key, which he
still had in his possession, fit and could operate the locking system,
although it was severely burned. A forensic x-ray also internally identified
the lock manufacturing number, and from there Bennett Johnson proved that
the defendant’s representation in its parts catalog of this particular
locking fuel cap as appropriate for the plaintiff’s model vehicle
was not true.
Child severely injured due to machine malfunction
Bennett Johnson obtained a settlement of $4.2 million.
The plaintiff was severely injured as she followed her mother who was picking
lettuce in the field. The lettuce conveyor malfunctioned and rolled backwards
over the eight year old child.
Bennett Johnson sued the owner of the farm since the child was not an employee.
They also sued the manufacturer and distributor of the lettuce conveyor
for not having a failsafe brake system or back-up bell and/or warning
system. Apparently, this problem had occurred frequently with this conveyor.
The ranch had reneged on its promise to provide day care for workers’
children, so the child was left unsupervised and wandered out to find
her mother when struck.
Motorcycle driver suffers severe burns in accident due to defective fuel systems
The plaintiff was awarded damages of $2.3 million.
Plaintiff Smith’s motorcycle dealer failed to properly repair the
fuel tank and fuel cap on Smith’s motorcycle after it had been slightly
damaged. Following the repairs, the plaintiff was involved in an incident
in which he was forced to lay his bike down to avoid an accident. At that
time, fuel escaped from the fuel cell cap because it was not the proper
size or fit, causing a major explosion and fire. The plaintiff was severely
burned and had multiple surgeries for skin grafts.
Bennett Johnson successfully argued that the plaintiff could no longer
work as a carpenter because of the severity of his burns and that the
dealer had negligently repaired the fuel system.
Defective bicycle part causes brain injury to rider
Bennett Johnson obtained a $2,000,000 award.
A 45-year-old man sustained a traumatic brain injury and facial fractures
when the forks of his bicycle separated from the bicycle stem while he
was riding, causing him to fall to the pavement.
Experts retained by Bennett Johnson determined that the materials used
in the manufacture of the bicycle forks were defective and below industry
standards resulting in the product failure.
Family awarded millions in Highway 12 crash settlements
In July 2011, a Solano County jury awarded $29.2 million to the surviving
victims of the crash. After the award was announced, Richard Bennett said,
“They (Caltrans officials) have to sit up and take notice, and realize
this jury has sent them a message. They need to finish Highway 12 safety
improvements to keep others from dying.”
A woman and the three children of a friend were involved in a fiery head-on
crash that killed two of the children and left the third child permanently
paralyzed from the waist down. The collision occurred in 2006 on Highway
12 between Suisun City and Rio Vista. The driver of an SUV, driving eastbound,
suddenly pulled into the westbound lane to pass another car and hit the
victims’ compact car head-on at the crest of a hill. The offender
was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and is serving time
in Ironwood State Prison.
A spate of fatalities had previously occurred at the same location. Caltrans
had made some safety improvements after the many incidents, including
construction of a median barrier. However, the barrier ended short of
the intersection where the accident occurred. Ultimately, jurors found
Caltrans to be 35 percent responsible. Because of special damages, the
State was liable for $20 million. At the time, counsel Richard Bennett
said, “We wanted to settle but the State only offered $3 million.”
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