Primo Gilbert Alvarez v. SCS Engineers, SCS Energy, Gelco Corporation, The PEP Boys, Manny, Moe & Jack of
California, Jesus Martin Venegas (MC020673)
Hon. Randolph A. Rogers
L.A. Superior Lancaster
TOPIC: Personal Injury
SUB TOPIC: Auto v. Auto
FURTHER DESCRIPTION: Multiple Injuries
Plaintiff – Nicholas C. Ro wley, Candice S. Klein (Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley, LLP, Beverly Hills).
Defendant – James E. Siepler (Pollard, Mavredakis, Cranert, Stevens, Pasadena) for SCS Engineers, SCS Energy, Gelco, Jesus M. Venegas; Donald G. Forgey, Julie A. Veltkamp (Lewis, Brisbo is, Bisgaard & Smith, LLP, Lo s Angeles) for The PEP Boys, Manny, Moe & Jack of California.
Plaintiff – David E. Fish, M.D., pain management, Los Angeles; H. Ronald Fisk, M.D., Ph.D., neurology, Los Angeles; Lester Zackler, M.D., neuropsychiatry, Sherman Oaks.
FACTS: On Aug. 27, 2007, plaintiff Primo Gilbert Alvarez, 57, was driving northbound on I-14 in a 2002 Chevy Impala when he was struck from behind by defendant SCS Energy Company’s Ford 250 Super Duty Truck at 12 mph. The F-250 was operated by SCS’s employee Jesus Martin Vegas in the course and scope of his employment. Plaintiff’s vehicle was shot across numerous lanes of traffic and into a dirt berm. The sloped berm then launched plaintiff’s vehicle into the air, causing the car to lose all contact with the ground, and ultimately “pancake” (as the independent witness described it to the jury), slamming down on an adjacent access road below the freeway.
The CHP officer who took the report tested the brakes and testified to the jury that the brakes were weak and that he saw that the brake fluid reservoir was completely empty and leaking. The day prior to the collision, Vegas had front brake pads replaced at Pep Boys. The truck had been driven less than 100 miles since the brake service. The truck was towed from the scene and brought back to the same Pep Boys in Palmdale.
For four years, and up until after commencement of trial, the insurance company for the driver refused to offer anything to settle the case. The zero offer by SCS Engineering was based on a cross-complaint against Pep Boys alleging that the hole in the brake fluid reservoir was caused when Pep Boys worked on the brakes, thus causing the sudden brake failure. Pep Boys pointed the finger at the driver and claimed that it was impossible for the hole to have been created prior to the collision and opined that the hole must have been created at the scene o f the collision while the truck was on the side of the road.
The case proceeded to verdict on liability against the SCS defendants.
During the damages phase of the trial, it was established that the rear end impact and the landing of the car onto the freeway access road caused a misdiagnosed compression fracture of the superior end plate of plaintiff’s L1 vertebrae. It had healed but had become a source o f chronic pain. Plaintiff had gone back to wo rk within a week o f the collision. He passed his qualification tests as a lifeguard months later, and he continued to work. He refused to have any back surgery.
DEFENDANT’S CONTENTIONS: Vegas denied responsibility for the collision claiming at the scene that his brakes failed and that Pep Boys was at fault. Defendants disputed liability up through trial.
INJURIES: Towards the end of trial the defense stipulated to reasonable and necessary medical expenses of $140,000, which included multiple injections for pain, many doctor visits, and physical therapy.
JURY TRIAL: Length, eight days;
SETTLEMENT DISCUSSIONS: The SCS Engineers Corporate defendants and Venegas, and Zurich Insurance Company did not make an offer until after the beginning of trial.
RESULT: After presentation of evidence, a directed verdict and judgment on non-economic damages was granted in favor of plaintiff in the amount o f $2 million against SCS defendants and Venegas. The trial was bifurcated on liability. At the conclusion o f the liability phase of trial, just prior to closing arguments, plaintiff settled with Pep Boys and made a motion for directed verdict on the cross-complaint, as well as Pep Boys’ good faith settlement motion as to plaintiff in the amount of $250,000.
OTHER INFORMATION: The jury came back with a 12-0 verdict against SCS and Venegas on negligence a substantial factor. The jury found defendants SCS defendants and Venegas 100 percent negligent.
INSURER: Zurich Insurance insured SCS defendants, Gelco and Venegas.
plaintiff in the amount of $250,000.OTHER INFORMATION: The jury came back with a 12-0 verdict against SCS and Venegas on negligence a substantial factor.The jury found defendants SCS defendants and Venegas 100 percent negligent.INSURER: Zurich Insurance insured SCS defendants, Gelco and Venegas.