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California Verdicts

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Deputy caused crash by failing to clear intersection: plaintiff

Amount:

$80,000

Type:

Settlement

State:

California

Venue:

Los Angeles County

Court:

Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles

Injury Type(s):

back-bulging disc, lumbar; neck-bulging disc, cervical; other-soft tissue; other-back and neck; other-physical therapy; other-epidural injections;

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle - Broadside, Red Light, Intersection

Case Name:

Sonya Benton v. County of Los Angeles, Jason Zabala, and Does 1 to 25, Inclusive, No. TC027002

Date:

October 19, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Sonya Benton (Female, 49 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Daniel W. Gillette; Casillas & Associates; Long Beach, CA, for Sonya Benton ■ Arnoldo Casillas; Casillas & Associates; Long Beach, CA, for Sonya Benton

Defendant(s):

Jason Zabala, 

County of Los Angeles

Defense Attorney(s):

Adrian G. Gragas; Office of the Los Angeles County Counsel; Los Angeles, CA, for Jason Zabala, County of Los Angeles

Insurer(s):

self-insured County of Los Angeles

Facts:

On Oct. 21, 2011, plaintiff Sonya Benton, 49, was driving on southbound Long Beach Boulevard, in Lynwood, when she entered the intersection with Euclid Avenue and her vehicle was struck on the front, driver's side by a Los Angeles County sheriff's patrol vehicle driven by Deputy Jason Zabala, who was traveling west on Euclid Avenue. Zabala was responding to a call to assist another deputy at the time and had gone through a red light when the collision occurred. Benton claimed she injured her neck and back. Benton sued Zabala and Zabala's employer, the county of Los Angeles. Benton alleged that Zabala was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that the county was liable for Zabala's actions while in the course and scope of his employment with the county's police department. Benton claimed that she did not see Zabala's vehicle prior to impact. Benton's counsel retained video surveillance of the intersection, which showed the entire collision. Plaintiff's counsel contended that Zabala failed to clear the intersection before driving through a red light and that Zabala did not have authorization to go through the intersection without first clearing it to prevent an accident. Counsel also contended that Zabala was not responding to an emergency at the time of the collision and that Zabala was actually responding to a call for non-emergency assistance in a traffic stop after another deputy sheriff stopped a vehicle with four persons inside. The plaintiff's accident reconstruction expert noted that it was dark out at the time of the crash, and opined that because a building protruded out to the curb, it created a blind spot. Thus, he opined that Benton did not have a clear view of the corner of the intersection and that Zabala also did not have a clear view of Benton. The expert further opined that as a result of the conditions, Benton would not have been able to avoid a collision with Zabala's vehicle. Zabala claimed that he had the patrol car's lights flashing and the siren activated. Thus, he claimed that Benton should have been able to see him and stopped at the intersection in time to avoid the collision.

Injury:

Benton claimed that she sustained bulging cervical discs at the C5-6 and C6-7 levels, and bulging lumbar discs at the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels. After the crash, she complained of neck and back pain, and was subsequently transported by ambulance to a local emergency room. Benton underwent X-rays and an MRI, and was ultimately discharged with instructions to follow up with an orthopedist. She then underwent a course of physical therapy and received three epidural steroid injections to her lumbar spine. Benton claimed that she continues to suffer residual pain, which causes limitations in performing her activities of daily living. She alleged that she now has difficulty lifting, and walking and standing for long periods of time. Benton claimed that as a result, her physician recommended that she eventually undergo a spinal fusion surgery. Thus, Benton sought recovery of past and future medical costs, and damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel asserted that Benton only suffered minor soft tissue injuries to her neck and back and that Benton was not injured as she claimed. Counsel also asserted that Benton did not need surgery.

Result:

Prior to trial, the parties agreed to an $80,000 settlement, which was paid by the county of Los Angeles on behalf of itself and Zabala.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Patricia D. Nieto

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.