Rouda, Feder, Tietjen, and McGuinn is pleased to announce that Partner Tim Tietjen and our legal team have secured a $47.5 million settlement for a child who was catastrophically injured when a rotten tree fell on his tent. The settlement reached with the County of San Mateo and utility giant PG&E is the largest pretrial personal injury settlement for a single plaintiff in California history!
The record-setting settlement stems from an accident in 2012 when our client Zachary R. was 12 years old. Zachary and his family had been camping in an approved campsite in San Mateo County Memorial Park on July 25, when a rotten 72-foot Tanoak tree collapsed and fell onto his tent as he slept at 5:00 am. As a result of the injuries he sustained, doctors determined the only way to save his life was to perform an amputation of his pelvis, buttock, and right leg. Zachary underwent over 30 surgeries and initially spent six months in the hospital.
Partner Tim Tietjen and our legal team represented Zachary in a lawsuit against San Mateo County, in which we alleged a dangerous condition of public property. PG&E and its vegetation management contractor WECI were also sued for failing to keep the area around its power lines in a safe condition, free of hazardous trees. The tree that fell was in striking distance of the power lines. The lawsuit further alleged negligence against Davey Tree, a contractor hired by San Mateo County in 2007 to inspect and evaluate hazardous conditions created by trees near its campsites.
During the case, each defendant filed a motion to dismiss Zachary’s case without trial. Partner Tim Tietjen and our team were successful in defeating all four motions. Two of the defendants – San Mateo County and PG&E, then appealed to the Court of Appeals. In its rulings, the Court stated that neither PG&E nor the County were immune from the lawsuit. These two Appellate cases were groundbreaking decisions that protect users of recreational areas and allowed the case to proceed.
Following two days of mediation, San Mateo County and Davey Tree ultimately agreed to settle the case for $30 million. PG&E and WECI settled for $17.5 million, with WECI paying that entire amount bringing the total settlement for Zachary to $47.5 million.
The case and record-setting settlement secured by our firm has garnered widespread attention in the media. You can read more of this coverage from the following sources below:
- The Washington Post
- Law360: (PDF)
- California Court of Appeals – PG&E Opinion
- California Court of Appeals – County of San Mateo Opinion
Tim Tietjen, our legal team, and the expert consultants who collaborated with us on this challenging case worked tirelessly for six years to protect the rights of Zachary and his family. We take tremendous pride in going the extra mile for victims and their loved ones, and to committing the full scope of our resources in their fight for justice and the maximum compensation possible.