Driver killed in crash with county garbage truck. - $25,000,000.00

CASE RESULTS

This case resulted in the highest award in Tulare County -- $25,000,000 including annuities -- at the time (2008) for an automobile accident case.

FACTS

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.

LEGAL STRATEGY

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 - $29,200,000.00

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 - $4,200,000.00

CASE RESULTS

Bennett Johnson obtained a settlement of $4.2 million.

FACTS

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.

LEGAL STRATEGIES

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 - $2,300,000.00

CASE RESULTS

The plaintiff was awarded damages of $2.3 million.

FACTS

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.

LEGAL STRATEGIES

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 - $2,000,000.00

CASE RESULTS

Bennett Johnson obtained a $2,000,000 award.

FACTS

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.

LEGAL STRATEGIES

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 - $29,200,000.00

CASE RESULT

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.”

FACTS

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.

LEGAL STRATEGIES

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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