$1 Million Recovered for Family in Home Fire-
Landers Family v. JADA Investments
On March 4, 2015, a space heater started a fire in the Landers family home
in Brookings, Oregon. Asleep in the home at the time were the grandparents
and three grandchildren. All the children were under the age of ten. The
grandparents woke up to smoke and a fire blazing in the living room. To
save their grandchildren, the grandparents carried their grandchildren
to a room in the back of the house and pushed the grandchildren through
a small window. Sadly, the grandparents succumbed to smoke inhalation
before they could save their four year old grandchild. The grandparents
and grandchild died in the fire. The youngest grandchild was airlifted
to Shriner’s in Sacramento to treat his severe burns.
The landlord had recently purchased the home without any smoke detectors.
Oregon law requires smoke detectors in all homes. The smoke detectors
would have warned the family of the fire and prevented the deaths and
injury to the family members.
The matter settled for the $1 million insurance policy limits.
$11.4 Million Recovered for Family of Man Killed in I-5 Tunnel Fire
The Martinez Family v. Caltrans
On October 12, 2007, the largest roadway-tunnel mass collision in California
history occurred in Los Angeles County near Santa Clarita. Thirty-three
trucks and one car were involved in a chain reaction collision on southbound
I-5. The initial collision involved a SAIA big rig that was going too
fast for the wet conditions. When it crashed, it started a chain reaction
that blocked the tunnel exit on the downhill side of the tunnel. A truck
carrying diesel fuel on that downhill side ignited. The tunnel then acted
as a chimney, incinerating those trapped inside as temperatures reached
1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Three people were killed and many injured in
the blaze. Our firm represents Victoria Martinez, the wife of Ricardo
Cibrian Baltazar, and his two young children. Baltazar, a truck driver,
was trapped in his big rig near the mouth of the tunnel. He died in the
LEGAL THEORIES AND STRATEGIES
The pile-up was the result of a combination of errors. Chief among them
was the SAIA truck driver, who was driving too fast for the wet conditions.
He lost control of his tractor and two trailers and crashed, blocking
both lanes of travel and the shoulder outside the tunnel. The driver’s
errors were compounded by poor sight distance and lighting in the Caltrans-designed
tunnel, and other truck drivers travelling too fast for the wet roadway
The Martinez family’s case against Caltrans settled for $2.75 million.
Thereafter, a settlement was reached between the Martinez family and the
truck company that triggered this collision for an additional $3.75 million.
$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.
LEGAL THEORIES AND STRATEGIES
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.
A 32-year-old carpenter fell 20 feet off a roof and sustained severe spinal injuries and paraplegia-
Michael Patton v. Lincoln Property Co. and Larkspur Courts Associates
Carpenter Michael Patton and his employer, Krata Inc., were hired by Lincoln
Property Co. and Larkspur Courts Associates to replace siding and paint
25 buildings at a Larkspur apartment complex. The complex was owned and
managed by Lincoln Property and Larkspur Courts.
Patton and two other employees were working on the roof to inspect for
defective siding. While Patton was inspecting the gables on the pitched
rooftop, he slipped and fell. He then tumbled over the edge and fell approximately
20 feet to the ground.
Patton sustained a T-12 spinal fracture causing paraplegia. He additionally
suffered a fractured nose, minor closed-head injury and severe emotional
distress and depression because of his devastating injuries.
LEGAL THEORIES AND STRATEGIES
Lincoln Property and Larkspur Courts controlled the work being performed
by Patton’s employer, Krata. Patton claimed that Lincoln Property
and Larkspur Courts specifically retained control over the "scope
of the woodwork" to be replaced by Patton and his employer. Having
retained control over this scope, the Lincoln Property and Larkspur Courts
failed to instruct Patton and Krata as to what specific siding needed
to be replaced on the 25 buildings, according to Patton.
$1 million settlement.
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
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.
Aviation Accident – Helicopter crash kills girlfriend of prominent rock promoter
The Doe Family v. Corporate Mobility and others
A well-known concert promoter attended a concert in Concord with his girlfriend,
Jane Doe. At the end of the night he decided they would take a helicopter
back to his house in Marin rather than drive. It was stormy. The helicopter
crashed into an unlit transmission tower, killing both the promoter and
Doe. The firm represented Doe’s three children.
Aviation Accident – Man Killed in Small Plane Crash near Tahoe Truckee Airport
The Davidson Family v. Means
Mr. Davidson was on a small plane that took off from the Tahoe Truckee
airport in poor weather. The plane crashed shortly after take-off, killing
everyone aboard. The firm represented his family. The defense contended
that Davidson, despite not being the owner of the plane, had injuries
consistent with Davidson being the pilot at the time of the incident.
The firm contended that he was in the co-pilot seat and was not the pilot
at the time of the crash.
Balcony Railing Gives Way Resulting In Severe Spinal Injuries
Contractor began work to replace balcony railings at a Tahoe condominium.
In the course of his work, the contractor began to tear out the deck floorboards
and remove the mid-rails from the guardrail system surrounding the deck.
Without finishing the project, employee was taken off the project and
moved to a new site leaving the deck in an unsafe condition. Robbie renter
arrived at the condominium. He walked out on the deck to check the porch
light which appeared to be out. In doing so, he placed his hand on the
balcony railing which gave way causing him to fall 11 feet. The uncompleted
work on the deck caused the premises to remain in an unsafe condition.
Additionally, the contractor failed to warn anyone that the balcony railing
work remained unfinished making the deck unsafe. Robbie renter suffered
severe spinal injuries, and underwent spinal fusion surgery.
The case resolved for a confidential sum.
Bicycle Accident – Cyclist Rendered Triplegic on Bay Bridge-
Alex Z. v. Caltrans
An 80-year-old cyclist, Alex, was invited by a Caltrans employee to participate
in a night ride across the Bay Bridge while it was closed for repairs.
Alex was physically fit and cycled more than 100 miles per week at the
time. His bicycle tire was caught in an expansion joint, causing the rim
to bend and the tire to go flat. Alex lost control and fell. His helmet
cracked and he was rendered unconscious, sustaining a severe traumatic
brain injury. Alex has been left a triplegic.
LEGAL THEORIES AND STRATEGIES
This preventable accident occurred because Caltrans failed to follow the
warnings generated from its own prior studies of bikes on bridges that
identified unprotected expansion joints as a hazard to bicyclists.
$1.7 million settlement
Bicycle Accident – Man Killed by Distracted Driver
The Doe Family v. Jane Roe
John Doe was riding a recumbent bicycle during a cross-country bicycle
trip. He was outside of Spokane, Washington, on a two-lane rural highway,
riding with another individual. They were riding side by side when a van
approached from behind. They went single-file for the van to pass. Jane
Roe was driving a car in the same direction on the rural highway. Her
child, who was in a car seat in the back, was fussy due to dropping his
sippy cup. Roe reached back to grab it and hand it to him, taking her
eyes off the road. As John Doe started to move back into side-by-side
riding, he was struck and killed by Jane Roe’s car. John Doe was
a father who for the last 10 years had raised his son by himself. His
son was 16 years old at the time his father was killed.
LEGAL THEORIES AND STRATEGIES
John Doe argued that Jane Roe was a distracted driver and her distraction
caused Doe’s death. Roe argued that Doe went back into the roadway
when it was unsafe to do so and that the physical evidence, including
scratches in the pavement, put Doe four feet into the road when the impact occurred.
The matter settled for a confidential amount.