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Case Results

Medical Malpractice – Baby Rendered Quadriplegic With Cerebral Palsy

Andrew Leyvas v. Norma Paragas, M.D.


Andrew Leyvas was born with jaundice. The hospital released him without adequate testing or treatment. His parents sought medical help four days later. His father telephoned Dr. Norma Paragas, a pediatrician who was on call for the child's regular doctor. Andrew's mother called a second time several hours later. Both parents reported that the baby's skin was yellow and he was experiencing difficulty feeding.

Dr. Paragas did not request to see the baby and failed to recognize that both calls dealt with the same baby. The parents, concerned about the apathy displayed by Paragas, called the emergency room. Twelve hours after initially speaking with Paragas, Andrew was finally admitted to the hospital.

Medical tests found Andrew to be suffering from hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus, conditions found in newborn babies when their livers cannot break down a blood waste called bilirubin. Bilirubin becomes a potent neurotoxin if allowed to accumulate in the body.


The firm contended that proper diagnosis and treatment did not begin until the doctor turned the case over to a neonatal specialist on June 8. The poisoning of Andrew's brain, due to a delay in treatment caused him to become a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Andrew’s parents maintained that the doctor was dismissive of the parents' initial concerns regarding their baby, inattentive to the infant's symptoms and failed to competently deal with the baby's problems.


$84.3 million jury verdict

Man suffers burns, amputations and paraplegia after contacting power line

Tuiaki v. Adelphia


A 36-year-old lineman, Sifa Tuiaki, suffered catastrophic injuries when he came into contact with a 7,200-volt power line. Tuiaki was working from an elevated workbasket installing a fiber-optic cable system. His co-worker was slowly driving the bucket truck around a turn in the highway, while Tuiaki elevated Tuiaki’s workbasket and the fiber-optic support cable to avoid some redwood trees. In doing so, Tuiaki backed into a power line that contacted the back of his neck and hardhat. Tuiaki suffered bilateral amputation of both arms, burns over 45% of his body and paraplegia.

Suit was brought under the following theories: (1) negligent construction management against defendants Adelphia, Pauley Construction and FJS; (2) negligent premises maintenance against defendants Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Pacific Bell, Western Environmental Consultations (WECI) and Davey Tree Surgery; and (3) products liability against the manufacturer/successors in interest of the uninsulated bucket tree, i.e. Mobile Tool International (MTI), American Premier Underwriters (APU) and General Cable Corporation.

Tuiaki was hospitalized for over seven months and underwent 14 surgeries. His wife, Lupe, age 37, was five months pregnant at the time of the accident with their second child. Their oldest child was four years old at the time. Lupe Tuiaki claimed loss of consortium due to her husband's severe injuries. Tuiaki claimed past and future medical expenses and wage loss over $13,000,000, which was disputed by the defendants.

Since the accident, Tuiaki obtained a general contractor's license and used funds from his settlement to start his own business. He actively oversees construction from his wheelchair with the assistance of his wife.


$29 million settlement.

RFTM Secures $24 Million Settlement For Bay Area Woman Paralyzed In Automobile Crash

Electrocution Accident – Reporter Electrocuted While Covering Story

Adrienne Doe v. Parent Corp.


Adrienne Doe, a well-known television reporter in Southern California, was in a news van being driven by her photographer. The van had a telescoping mast with microwave antennae that allowed the reporter to make live video transmissions. The driver parked the van on the driveway of an automotive shop. As a result, the antennae angled toward the power lines as the mast extended up into the sky.

Doe was unaware of this dangerous condition and was in the process of preparing to cover the story when she suddenly heard her driver and others start screaming for her to get out of the van. She rushed out of the van. As soon as her right foot touched the electrified ground, the electric current flowed through her body, causing devastating injuries.

The broadcasting company for which Doe worked had never given its employees training on the dangers posed by the telescoping masts in light of their being used near power lines. Nor did the company make its employees aware of any emergency procedures to follow in the event a news van mast inadvertently contacted an overhead power line, which would electrify the van.


$17.8 million settlement

Pedestrian struck in defectively-designed crosswalk

Mowatt v. City of Los Angeles


Mowatt, a 19-year-year old student who was visiting Los Angeles, was crossing an intersection near the Hollywood Bowl. As she neared the crosswalk’s end, she was struck by an SUV. Mowatt sustained severe brain damage, a fractured lower jawbone, broken teeth and facial lacerations. Her brain injuries caused attention and concentration deficits, memory loss, as well as the loss of her senses of taste and smell.


Mowatt sued the driver for negligence, and the City of Los Angeles and the State of California for failing to correct a dangerous condition. The driver didn't dispute liability and settled for $175,000. Meanwhile, the state denied liability but settled before trial for $1.5 million.

As to the City of Los Angeles, Mowatt contended that the city had actual notice of a dangerous condition, including the 55 mph speed limit on the street, with no stop sign or traffic light at the crosswalk. Additionally, an off-ramp from the freeway flowed directly into the intersection. The city had received letters and phone calls from citizens who thought the intersection was a danger to pedestrians and requesting an evaluation of its safety, but the city failed to act on these requests or bring them to the attention of the state.

The jury found the city 20 percent at fault, the state 48 percent at fault, the driver 30 percent at fault and Mowatt 2 percent at fault.


$16 million, consisting of an $18 million jury verdict against the City of Los Angeles, reduced to $12.25 million for the City’s comparative fault and a prior $1.625 million settlement, plus over $2 million in costs and interest following defendant’s unsuccessful appeal.

Men crushed by car against building suffer traumatic leg injuries

Juan Diaz and John Doe v. Errant Delivery Co.


Two men, Juan Diaz and John Doe, were waiting at a walk-up window in San Francisco, when an Errant Delivery Co. delivery car veered off the road and crashed into the men at an impact speed of approximately 25 miles per hour. Both men were crushed between the vehicle and the building. Due to the accident, Doe had to undergo amputation of both legs above the knee, and Diaz suffered major crush injuries to his left leg.

The driver of the car claimed that his brakes had failed that that he had no other option but to crash into the building. Witnesses, including a passenger in the car, challenged his testimony and stated that the driver appeared to have lost consciousness which, in turn, caused him to swerve into the building. An inspection of the car following the incident, found no vehicle malfunctions.

From the beginning, the legal counsel for Errant Delivery Co. acknowledged their client was responsible for the accident, but they also believed it was too early to properly value the case. As a result, Errant Delivery Co. made pre-resolution, partial settlement payments that amounted to over $1 million to the plaintiffs. This early sign of good faith allowed all parties to come to an agreeable resolution. In the end, Diaz and Doe where justly compensated and Errant Delivery Co. did not declare bankruptcy.


$14.5 million settlement. Diaz's settlement was $5.5 million. Doe, who had both legs traumatically amputated at the scene, was represented by separate counsel.

Auto Accident – Woman Injured After Father Falls Asleep at the Wheel

Cole v. Henry


Jury awards $13.4 million to woman injured when her father fell asleep at the wheel and crashed truck during cross-country trip. The jury award was the largest personal injury verdict in Sonoma County history.

On June 1, 2011, Angie Cole, age 28, and her father, Henry, a State Farm insured, were driving across country from North Carolina to California in a rental truck, hauling a trailer with a car on it. Henry was transporting furniture and personal goods to his home in California. He had invited his daughter to come along with him to share his company and driving responsibilities.

In the early morning hours of June 3, near Flagstaff, Arizona, as Angie was sleeping in the front passenger seat, Henry fell asleep at the wheel. The truck veered left at 70 mph, crossed two oncoming traffic lanes, and plowed into the Mojave Desert. Lead counsel Cynthia McGuinn says, “This case highlights the dangers associated with fatigued driving and the responsibilities all drivers have to ensure they are fit to drive.”

Henry was able to extricate himself and stumble from the wreckage. Angie, who knew she had suffered a severe back injury, remained belted in the cab until an ambulance arrived some forty minutes later. Angie was taken by ambulance to a local hospital which was ill-equipped to handle an injury of this magnitude, so Angie was transported by helicopter to Sunrise Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Angie sustained a comminuted vertebral burst fracture of her spine requiring surgical repair and fusion. She subsequently developed severe infections, requiring an additional surgery. Ultimately a third surgery was performed to remove the plates and screws in her spine as it was believed that might be the source of the ongoing infection.

The trauma to Angie’s spine, caused by the fractures, the infections, and repeated surgical procedures at the site, resulted in the development of a mixed pain syndrome requiring a fourth surgery: the surgical implantation a spinal cord stimulator, a device which helps to diminish, but not fully control, ongoing pain. When it was discovered that Angie’s initial spinal fusion had never been achieved and her spine was collapsing, a fifth, complex spinal fusion operation was performed at UCSF.

Today, Angie is improved, but remains presently disabled from work. She hopes to return to part time employment soon, but will require lifetime medical care.

Case Result

After a trial spanning two months, the hardworking Sonoma County jury disagreed, and awarded Angie $6.4 million in economic damages and $7 million for her noneconomic damages – a $13.4 million verdict.

Husband and wife left quadriplegics after vehicle went over drop-off, plunging 160 feet down embankment

The Becks v. City of San Jose and County of Santa Clara


The Becks, a married couple in their late thirties, drove their new Mazda Miata convertible up a steep, narrow, rural mountain road in Santa Clara County. A steep canyon bordered the south side of the road.

When they reached the top, the couple switched places so the wife could experience driving down the mountain's curvy roads. After maneuvering several curves, she approached a curve where she lost control of the vehicle. The car spun out of control and left the roadway, plunging 160 feet down a steep embankment, coming to rest upside down at the bottom of the canyon. Both of the Becks were rendered quadriplegic.


The Becks contended that for a modest investment, a guardrail would have prevented their vehicle from going over the steep drop-off. Additionally, they argued that had there been proper warning signs, raised reflective pavement markers, and supplemental delineation outlining the curve, the curve would have been clear, and the danger of going over the steep drop-off avoided.

After the negotiations were over, the attorneys for the defendants told the Becks that this settlement was the largest dangerous roadway settlement they knew of.


$12.5 million settlement.

Martinez v. State of California, et al


On October 12, 2007 a catastrophic chain reaction vehicle collision and fire occurred in the 544 foot long Newhall Tunnel in Southern California. In total, 33 commercial trucks and one auto were involved in a series of collisions. This incident was triggered by a speeding truck that exited the tunnel and lost control crashing into the center divider and coming to rest 1,700 feet south of the tunnel exit. Thereafter, as vehicles exiting the tunnel were slowing down a series of chain reaction collisions occurred. A fire began from a collision about 130 feet outside the tunnel and quickly spread through the entire tunnel creating an inferno. 39 year old Ricardo Cibrian was trapped in his truck inside the tunnel after being struck by several vehicles when the fire broke out. He was burned alive as the fire spread through the tunnel.

The decedent was survived by his 44 year old wife and two children ages 5 and 12. Plaintiffs claimed an economic loss of $1.2 million dollars. The case was extremely complicated as the CHP concluded that 14 of the 34 drivers were traveling at an unsafe speed at the time of this accident. In addition, it was claimed that the design of the tunnel presented a dangerous condition of property as the sight distance was inadequate for the posted speed limit and this contributed to this disaster.

When initially designed and built in 1959, the Newhall tunnel had a posted speed limit of 45 mph. In 2002, the State changed the speed limit to 55 mph. After this catastrophic accident, the state changed the posted speed limit back to 45 mph.

Over 50 claims were consolidated into this action including 3 deaths, 5 personal injury actions, and dozens of property damage claims. Tim Tietjen took the role as lead counsel for all the plaintiffs. Mr. Tietjen first reached a settlement with the State of California for $2.75 million dollars on behalf of his clients. Thereafter, he settled the plaintiffs claim with the truck company that triggered this collision for $3.75 million dollars.

Almost all the remaining defendants had 1 million dollar combined single limit insurance policies covering all property and injury claims for this incident. Mr. Tietjen, with the consent of all other plaintiffs counsel, bundled all the plaintiffs’ claims together and made 1 million dollar policy limit demands to 11 different defendants. Over several years and after multiple mediations, Mr. Tietjen was able to secure $8,875,000 in settlement funds to be allocated among the various plaintiffs. Combining his prior settlements with the group settlements, Mr. Tietjen was able to recover a total of $11.4 million dollars for his clients. This represents one of the highest settlements for a wrongful death case of this nature in California.

Motorcycle Accident – Woman Killed by Inattentive Driver

The Buzenus Family v. Red Company


Brian and Patricia Buzenus were motorcycle riding with friends while on vacation, headed southbound on U.S. 95. Brian was driving the motorcycle, with his wife seated behind him. A Red Company employee, driving northbound, made a left turn in front of the motorcycle. Brian Buzenus saw the car turn in front of his motorcycle and braked, but the collision was unavoidable. Brian was injured; Patricia was killed. Mr. Buzenus watched his wife die at the scene.

Brian was 56 and Patricia was 53. They had been married 34 years and had three adult children, two sons and a daughter. The Buzenus family lived in Alberta, Canada. They ran a successful small construction company that they had started in 1981. Brian Buzenus owned 51% of the company and Patricia owned 49%. Brian was the president, Patricia was the office manager, the two sons ran construction crews, and the daughter helped in the office.


Red Company admitted legal responsibility for the accident but contested the extent of the Buzenus family’s damages. Red Company pointed out that Patricia Buzenus only worked 4-5 hours a day, that she functioned as a bookkeeper, that her husband earned the money, and that Mrs. Buzenus's earnings were really a profit pass-through used to take advantage of Canadian tax laws and reduce the Buzenus family’s taxes. The Buzenuses countered that California law provides for economic damages based on a decedent’s lost earning capacity, and that capacity can, in the case of a small-business owner, best be shown by the business's profits during the decedent's lifetime.


The case settled the day before trial for $8.75 million. This is the largest reported result in the United States for a wrongful death case involving a motorcycle accident.

Forklift Injury – Man Suffers Crush Injury From a Forklift

Jim Trucker v. Albertson’s


Fifty-eight year-old Jim Trucker was working as a truck driver. On the day of the accident, he was making a delivery to Albertsons, Inc.'s Brea Distribution Center. After arriving at the warehouse and while speaking to a receiver on the loading dock, a 9,200-pound stand-up electric forklift owned by Albertson and operated by an Albertson's employee ran over Trucker’s left foot. The forklift crushed his foot and trapped Trucker under the forklift for about five minutes.

The Albertson's employee claimed that he lost control of the forklift due to an electric malfunction, which resulted in a loss of power steering and power braking. The employee did not use the forklift's emergency brake, which would have brought the vehicle to an immediate stop.


Trucker contended the operator was negligent. The firm, recognizing that the forklift was not defective, dismissed the forklift manufacturer before trial. Albertson's persisted with its claims of contribution against the forklift manufacturer. The jury determined that the forklift was not defective and that Albertsons was responsible for Trucker’s harm. The case tried to verdict and the verdict was upheld following an unsuccessful appeal by Albertson's.


$8.1 million resolution consisting of a $6.4 million jury verdict and $1.7 million in costs and interest following Albertson’s unsuccessful appeal.

Brain Injury – Catastrophic Injury From High-Speed Truck Collision

Darr v. Matheson Fast Freight


Dwaine Darr, a 43-year-old, warehouse worker, sustained catastrophic brain injuries when a Matheson Fast Freight trailer operated by William Watson on Highway 429 in Washoe Valley, Nevada was blown into Darr's lane of travel, causing a high-speed truck collision. Watson was attempting to haul two trailers at the time.

Darr sued Matheson Fast Freight, Elk Grove, for causing the collision. Darr argued the company was negligent in dispatching its driver to haul an empty trailer through Washoe Valley when high-wind warnings had closed down the adjacent Highway US 395. Darr argued that dispatching empty trailers into a notoriously windy region without checking prevailing weather was akin to playing "Russian Roulette" with the lives and safety of other motorists.

Darr was found unconscious at the scene. He had multiple hemorrhaging in both sides of his frontal lobes. Over the ensuing months, Darr received outpatient therapy, but cognitive difficulties and behavioral problems ensued.


$8 million settlement and Darr’s employer’s waiver of a $600,000 workers’ compensation lien.

Woman falls down empty elevator shaft

Stacy H. v. Residential Apartment Building


Christine, a 31-year-old designer, was severely injured when she fell 18 feet down an empty elevator shaft. The apartment building contained the original Otis elevators that had been installed in 1916. The elevator had been maintained by the same company for 11 years prior to the accident. Christine opened the lobby elevator hall door, stepped in, but no elevator car was there. She plummeted down the elevator shaft.

Christine's accident occurred a week after the resident building manager of the apartments narrowly escaped the same fate when he opened the lobby elevator door and almost fell down the elevator shaft. After experiencing this near miss into the abyss, the building manager reported to the maintenance company that the hall door of the right lobby elevator could be opened without the elevator car being present at the landing. The service technician inspected the lobby elevator door but could not duplicate the problem and made no repairs to it. Before leaving the building, the service technician verbally told the resident building manager that the elevator door interlocks were obsolete and needed replacing. The service technician testified that the building manager's response was that upgrades were not in the budget, testimony the building manager denied. The upgrades cost $2,900.


Discovery revealed that the building owner and the elevator contractor had known for years that the door locks were worn and obsolete. Despite the worn and obsolete condition of the door locks, the building owner did not authorize the funds to upgrade the right passenger elevator.


$7 million settlement

Woman slips and falls on loading dock

Stewart v. American Poultry


A 69-year-old woman fell off a loading dock at the San Francisco Produce Mart. She claimed that she slipped on ice and fish residue. As a result of the fall, she was rendered quadriplegic.


The defense contended that the plaintiff fell forward, tripping over a metal truck ramp located between the loading dock and a truck parked at the loading dock. The defense retained a biomechanical engineer who introduced a computer animation of the accident. It showed her tripping over the ramp, falling forward, and then landing on her back. The firm’s biomechanical engineer proved that the computer animation was flawed and depicted a physically impossible scenario.


$6.9 million jury verdict

Orthopedic surgeon hit by board falling from high-rise, suffered shoulder injury

John Doe v. Third and Mission Assoc. and others


A 42-year-old orthopedic surgeon was attending an orthopedic surgery convention in San Francisco. As John Doe and some colleagues were walking on the sidewalk near the corner of Third Street and Mission, a two-foot by eight-foot piece of plywood, weighing about 40 pounds, fell from the 22-story of a high-rise construction site. The board traveled across the street and struck John Doe on his left shoulder with enough force to knock him to the ground.


Doe sued the owner of the building, Third & Mission Associates LLC, and contractor Pankow Residential Builders II. He contended that he suffered permanent injuries that reduced his earning capacity. Third and Mission contended he had suffered minor bruises that had resolved within four to six weeks. The case tried to verdict and the verdict was upheld following an unsuccessful appeal by the defendants.


$6.5 million resolution consisting of a $5.4 million jury verdict and $1.1 million in costs and interest following defendants’ unsuccessful appeal.

Brain Damage and Fractures From Intersection Accident

Jane Doe v. Jerry Berkowitz and Contra Costa County


A 44-year-old female optician was driving her Isuzu Amigo north on Walnut Boulevard toward Concord Avenue in Contra Costa County. At the same time, Jerry Berkowitz was driving his Cadillac east on Concord toward the same intersection. Berkowitz failed to notice a stop sign and drove through the intersection, broad siding Jane Doe's car. The collision partially ejected Jane Doe from the car, despite her wearing her seatbelt. Jane Doe sustained brain damage and numerous fractures.

Berkowitz claimed he did not see the stop sign because the bushes located on the adjacent property partially covered it. Doe sued Berkowitz, the property owner and Contra Costa County. Doe contended Berkowitz was negligent for failing to stop at the stop sign and for speeding. Doe also contended that the County was negligent because it had recently moved the stop sign closer to the bushes. After moving the stop sign, the County did not raise the sign to increase its visibility, nor did it continue to trim the bushes away from the sign. Jane Doe further argued that the fence, trees and bushes on the property violated County ordinances, resulting in an inability to see crossing traffic.


$5.8 million settlement

Wife and Mother Crushed by Die Cutting Machine and Killed

The Doe Family v. ABC Manufacturing Co. and XYZ Machinery


Marge Doe was an employee at ABC Manufacturing Co. in San Francisco. As she helped a coworker replace a die on a creasing-and-cutting machine, the machine suddenly turned on. Because Marge was leaning into the machine and did not have sufficient time to remove herself, she was trapped and crushed between the plates that are used for creasing and cutting. She died before emergency personnel were able to take her out of the machine.


Marge, a 26-year-old mother, was survived by her husband and 5-year-old daughter. Her family proceeded to file a lawsuit against ABC Manufacturing for her wrongful death, arguing that the machine was a defective power press. Because California law has a statutory exception for victims of power-press accidents, the Doe family was permitted to sue in civil court for damages in addition to workers’ compensation benefits.

The Does also filed suit against XYZ Machinery for strict products liability on account of the fact that the company imported and sold a defectively designed machine. Their case included evidence, provided by the family’s consulting experts, of various flaws found in the safety mechanisms of the machine. They reasoned that a pressure mat would have been sufficient to prevent the accident by ensuring that the machine would not operate unless the operator was standing on the mat.

In spite of this evidence, the Doe family was unable to sue the manufacturer because it was located in China, well outside the Court’s jurisdiction.


$5.75 million settlement.

Illegal Car Rental – Drunk Driver Causes Fatal Accident

John Doe v. Black Corp.


Late at night, a Toyota Camry traveling at 90 miles per hour on U.S. 101, north of San Francisco International Airport, hit another car. The Camry spun out of control and crashed into a concrete support column. The 21-year-old driver, John Smith, was driving without a license, drunk, and high on cocaine. The impact killed John Smith. His 20 year-old passenger John Doe suffered numerous fractures and traumatic brain injury.

Smith was an employee of Black Corporation a car sales, repair, and rental business. A co-worker at Black Corporation rented the car to Smith. Black Corporation provided employees with cars in violation of the California Vehicle Code. Black Corporation repeatedly rented cars to John Smith even though he was under the age of 25. The Black Corporation rental-managing agent conspired with John Smith to have his mother rent the car under her name. The managing agent stated she only had to come down the first time, and that Smith could rent the car using his mother's information after that.


The California Vehicle Code requires a rental company to confirm that the person that they are renting to possesses a valid driver's license. Had Black Corporation done so, they would have learned that Smith's license was suspended. Black Corporation was also aware Smith had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and reckless driving. He was caught smoking marijuana at work, and the general manager of Black Corporation observed John Smith and his friends doing drugs at an office party. Smith had also previously damaged a Black Corporation rental car.

John Doe's injuries were so extensive that he will require 24-hour attendant care for the rest of his life and will never work again.


$5.7 million settlement

$5 Million Policy Limit Settlement for Bicyclist Killed by a Big Rig Truck

The Ward Family v. Black Trucking


Lauren Ward was riding her bicycle on Alpine Road in Woodside near the 280 interchange. A Black Trucking big rig, attempting to go from Alpine Road onto 280, struck Ms. Ward and killed her. She was survived by her husband and two children.


The CHP report found Ms. Ward at fault. There were no eyewitnesses to the collision. RFTM retained a team of experts who road tested the tractor and trailer, loaded identically as on the day of the incident. The fully instrumented acceleration and braking tests revealed the truck could not have stopped at the nearby stop sign and attained the speed it was travelling at time of impact. The driver therefore must not have stopped at the stop sign. The Initial police report had not measured nor even noted the existence of skid marks or tire marks. Tire marks were visible in photographs taken in the first few days after the collision. RFTM experts’ meticulous analysis of the tire marks left by the truck and microscopic inspection of the bicycle were important parts of the reconstruction, which included a visibility analysis of what the driver should have seen if he was properly attentive. Detailed laser scanning of the roadway, tire marks and tractor-trailer led to the preparation of detailed trial exhibits to tell the compelling story of how the collision occurred.


The matter settled for the $5 million insurance policy limits before trial.

Industrial Accident – Man Rendered Paraplegic by Falling Equipment

Barrera v. The Montague Company


John Barrera, 31, an employee of Federighi Design Inc., was outside Federighi's warehouse in San Francisco. He was standing next to a forklift truck while a coworker offloaded boxes. The boxes contained heavy commercial kitchen equipment mounted on wooden pallets from The Montague Company. One of the stacked boxes fell on top of Barrera.

Barrera sustained severe crush injuries and was rendered a paraplegic. His past medical bills, paid by a workers' compensation carrier, were estimated to be over $800,000.


Montague designed and assembled its own pallets. Barrera contended that the pallets were unsafe because their bottoms were not fully planked with deck boards, so the concentrated force exerted on the box below by the pallet’s narrow stringers contributed to the tipping. Montague's design allowed only a small margin of error before the stringers tipped and fell.

Montague contended it had no duty to warn sophisticated users, and that bottom deck boards fastened under exterior stringers of the skid would not have stopped the load from tipping. Montague further argued that Federighi employees were in charge of the offloading operations, and their failure to properly balance the load caused it to tip and fall.


$5 million settlement. Barrera’s future workers' compensation benefits were resolved for an additional $477,000.

Man killed by exploding 100-pound propane cylinders

The Doe Family v. Durnall and Campora Propane, Inc. and Manchester Tank & Equipment Co.


Jim Doe took two 100-pound propane cylinders to defendant Durnall and Campora Propane to be filled. The cylinders were overfilled, which did not leave room in the tanks for the propane to safely expand without dangerously venting gas. The tanks’ certifications also had expired, and the tanks were not fitted with overfill-protection devices, which would have prevented the overfilling.

After the cylinders were filled with propane, Doe drove home and parked his pickup truck in the driveway. A couple of hours later, he heard a hissing noise coming from near his truck and he went to investigate. A neighbor also heard the hissing sound and went to check. The neighbor saw a large cloud of propane vapor venting into the air from the back of Doe’s truck. Jim Doe was standing on the ground behind the truck. Suddenly, the propane cloud exploded in a fireball, engulfing him. The skin was burned off more than 80% of his body.

Doe was never again able to speak with anyone due to the severity of his pain and injuries. Despite heroic efforts by the trauma center to save his life, Jim Doe died two months after the explosion due to complications from his severe burn injuries.


Doe’s family contended that Durnall & Campora: (1) negligently overfilled one or both of the propane cylinders causing propane to vent into the air, triggering this explosion; (2) negligently trained the employee who filled Doe’s cylinders; (3) negligently filled the two propane cylinders that Doe leased from Durnall & Campora, as neither cylinder was legally certified on the day of the accident; (4) negligently allowed customers, including Doe, to transport propane cylinders in horizontal fashion, thus increasing the danger of a propane incident; and (5) negligently failed to warn Doe of the consequences of transporting the propane cylinders in a horizontal fashion.

Does also alleged that Manchester, who manufactured the cylinders, was strictly liable for selling defective propane cylinders that failed to adequately warn consumers of the risk associated with transporting propane cylinders, and for failing to incorporate an overfill-protection device in its cylinders.


$4.85 million settlement. This is one of the highest wrongful death settlements ever reported in San Joaquin County.

Husband and father killed when 18-wheeler tractor-trailer rig made illegal turn on highway

The Millison Family v. Federal Trucking


Rex Millison, a 37-year-old husband and father of two, was returning home from a business trip to Fresno. He was driving northbound on I-5 in San Joaquin County when a Federal Trucking driver, Jason Sanders, pulled out in front of him. Sanders was sleep-deprived, inexperienced and improperly licensed. Rex was unable to stop in time, and his car plowed into the 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig.

At the time of this accident, Sanders was in the process of making an illegal U-turn, using a gravel turn-through in the wide median separating the two roads. The median was for official use only, and Sander's use was illegal.

Rex was traveling within the 70 mph speed limit. The tractor-trailer rig was moving at less than 10 mph and was at a 45-degree angle to the road at impact. The big rig was blocking the shoulder to the west, as well as two and a half lanes of traffic.

Rex was killed in as a result of the collision.


$4.6 million settlement

Defective Manlift Failure Results in Worker Injury

Charles Yamamoto and George May v. Montgomery Elevator Company; 35 Stanford Street Building Corporation dba Pacific Elevator & Equipment Company, Inc.; Viola Industries; and Tosco Refinery Corporation


Charles Yamamoto and George May, both 51 years old, fell more than 30 feet to the ground when a manlift failed. Yamamoto, an employee of Tosco Refinery Corporation, fractured his spine and suffered a brain injury, permanently disabling him and rendering him unemployable. May, who worked for a plant maintenance company, suffered a compression fracture in his back, and was permanently disabled from returning to his former occupation as a boilermaker.


The manlift failed because a coupling disengaged due to lack of lubrication, and the emergency brake system was defective and in a state of disrepair. Defendant Viola manufactured the manlift and sold it to the refinery in 1972. Defendant Pacific Elevator & Equipment Company had modified the emergency brake system of the manlift in 1987. Tosco had hired defendant Montgomery Elevator Company to maintain the manlift at the time of the accident.

Plaintiffs contended that Montgomery negligently maintained the equipment, was incompetent to service the defective manlift, and failed to adequately inspect the device; that Pacific Elevator negligently modified the emergency brake system and failed to properly maintain the equipment; and that Viola negligently designed the explosion-proof cover that housed the emergency brake system, thereby hindering access to the brake system for routine service and repair. Plaintiff May contended that defendant Tosco violated its nondelegable duty to maintain its equipment in a safe condition, and was negligent in hiring incompetent contractors to service the manlift.


$3.96 million settlement, with $2.7 million to Yamamoto and $1.26 million to May

Mother breaks neck and dies in car accident with her sons in car

The Penado Family v. Molex, Inc. and Regina Litz


Evelyn Penado, 39, a childcare provider, was riding in a car driven by one of her sons, with another son also in the car. Their car stayed right in its lane as the lane widened, in order to merge onto the entrance ramp to Interstate 280 in San Francisco. Regina Litz was ahead of the Penados and kept left in the same southbound lane until just before the split. Near the entrance ramp, Litz moved to her right and cut off the Penado vehicle.

There was no contact between the vehicles, but to avoid a collision, Franklin swerved, lost control of his car and hit the crash barrels that divided the ramp from the roadway. His mother Evelyn's neck broke, and she died on impact.

Evelyn's widower and four children sued Litz and Litz's employer, Molex Inc. (which owned the car she was driving at the time of the accident) for the loss of their wife and mother and for the horror of seeing her die.


The Penado family claimed Litz negligently failed to check whether any cars were approaching on her right, and made an unsafe turning movement toward the Penado car.


$3.87 million settlement

Cab and Shuttle Bus Accident on Freeway

Doe and others v. Yellow Cab Cooperative, Inc.


Four United Airlines employees got off work at San Francisco International Airport. An airport shuttle bus was taking the four employees from the airport terminal to the employee parking lot. The bus was traveling behind a Yellow Cab as it entered the on-ramp for U.S. 101 north. While approaching the highway, the Yellow Cab driver saw a woman, off to the side of the on-ramp, and thought she might be a potential fare. The cab driver slammed on his brakes and stopped his cab in the middle of the on-ramp, about 20 feet before it merged with the freeway.

The bus driver did not notice the cab was stopping in the middle of the on-ramp. Once he realized the cab was stopping, he slammed on his brakes, causing the passengers to come out of their seats. The shuttle bus hit the back of the taxi, causing minimal damage to both vehicles.

One individual suffered a broken ankle and was off work for about four months. The three other individuals returned to work after a couple of days. As time progressed, each of the other individuals noticed their injuries were not healing and sought medical treatment. Each sustained permanent medical injuries and limitations in their ability to perform their occupations.

The case tried to verdict. The defendant honored the jury’s decision, accepted the verdict, and did not file a frivolous appeal.


$3.7 million jury verdict

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