California Verdicts

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Teen crossing roadway struck by inattentive driver: suit

Amount:

$13,820,000

Type:

Verdict-Mixed

State:

California

Venue:

Los Angeles County

Court:

Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles

Injury Type(s):

brain-coma; brain-traumatic brain injury; brain-internal bleeding; mental/psychological-cognition (memory, impairment), impairment (memory, impairment)

Case Type:

Transportation – Roadways; Motor Vehicle – Pedestrian, Visibility; Government – Municipalities; Motor Vehicle – Dangerous Condition; Dangerous Condition of Public Property

Case Name:

Francisco DeLeon, Jr. v. Patricia Lynn Fregoso, The City of Norwalk, California Department of Transportation, LandCare Holdings Inc. dba TruGreen LandCare Inc., The County of Los Angeles, West Coast Arborists Inc., and Does 1-50,
No. BC528572

Date:

January 23, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Francisco DeLeon, Jr. (Male, 17 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Christopher E. Angelo;
Angelo & Di Monda LLP;
Manhattan Beach,
CA,
for
Francisco DeLeon, Jr. ■ Joseph Di Monda;
Angelo & Di Monda LLP;
Manhattan Beach,
CA,
for
Francisco DeLeon, Jr.

Defendant(s):

City of Norwalk, 

County of Los Angeles, 

Patricia Lynn Fregoso, 

LandCare Holdings Inc., 

West Coast Arborists Inc., 

California Department of Transportation

Defense Attorney(s):

Christopher E. Faenza;
Yoka & Smith LLP;
Los Angeles,
CA,
for
West Coast Arborists Inc. ■ Kim Schumann;
Schumann | Rosenberg;
Costa Mesa,
CA,
for
Patricia Lynn Fregoso ■ Frank J. D’Oro;
Wesierski & Zurek, LLP;
Los Angeles,
CA,
for
City of Norwalk ■ David M. Phillips;
Pollard, Mavredakis, Cranert & Crawford;
Pasadena,
CA,
for
LandCare Holdings Inc. ■ None reported; Los Angeles,
CA,
for
County of Los Angeles, California Department of Transportation

Insurer(s):

Victoria Insurance Group for Fregoso

Facts:

At around 6:30 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2013, plaintiff Francisco DeLeon Jr., 17, a military academy student, was crossing Norwalk Boulevard, in Norwalk, on his way to his high school. Norwalk Boulevard is an eastbound and westbound divided, four-lane roadway with two lanes in each direction and a landscaped center median. Francisco walked north across Norwalk Boulevard in a marked crosswalk as the sun was just started to rise. After reaching the middle of the center median, he continued to walk north across the westbound lanes. However, after clearing the left turn pocket lane and almost clearing number one westbound lane, Francisco was struck by a vehicle operated by Patricia Fregoso, who was driving at approximately 40 mph in the number one lane of westbound Norwalk Boulevard. The impact caused Francisco to be ejected into the air, and strike his head and body against where the windshield and roof meet on Fregoso’s vehicle. Francisco sued Fregoso; the believed maintainers of the roadway, the city of Norwalk, the California Department of Transportation, and the county of Los Angeles; and the maintainer of the center median’s landscaping, LandCare Holdings Inc. (doing business as TruGreen Landcare Inc.); and the maintainer of the trees on the median, West Coast Arborists Inc. The Department of Transportation and the county were ultimately dismissed from the case. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Fregoso had about two to four seconds to see Francisco, react and stop, but that Fregoso never braked. Thus, counsel argued that Fregoso was negligent for not seeing Francisco prior to the impact. Plaintiff’s counsel also noted that Fregoso testified that she may have been looking in her rearview and side-view mirrors as she approached the intersection. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that the police report noted that the landscaping on the center median was a contributing factor to the accident because Fregoso claimed that she did not see Francisco as he crossed Norwalk Boulevard. Counsel also noted that the landscapers’ contracts with the city included language that said that they would keep the landscaping on the center median trimmed so that pedestrians and vehicles could see each other. However, plaintiff’s counsel argued that the center median was kept in a dangerous condition by not having the trees and shrubbery on it properly trimmed. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel argued that West Coast Arborists, Landcare Holdings, and the city all failed to keep the center median properly maintained. Fregoso claimed that she could not see past the center median, so she did not see Francisco crossing the eastbound lanes, prior to stepping out from the center median and begin crossing the westbound lanes. The city’s counsel argued that the condition of the center median was irrelevant because Fregoso had enough time to see Francisco and stop her vehicle. Thus, counsel argued that Fregoso could have simply applied her brakes and avoided striking Francisco. West Coast’s counsel argued that the tree setup was irrelevant to the accident, as the limbs were higher up and the view underneath the limbs was visible. LandCare’s counsel contended that LandCare was only a tool of the city’s to use for landscaping and that LandCare did what the city requested.

Injury:

Francisco sustained a massive traumatic brain injury, which resulted in internal bleeding and left him in unconscious at the scene. He also sustained fractures to a leg. He was subsequently rushed to a hospital, where he remained in a coma for a period of time. Francisco ultimately came out of the coma and his leg fractures had healed. However, it was undisputed that Francisco’s traumatic brain injury caused him to suffer from cognitive deficits. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that when Francisco was called to the stand, he never fully answered questions and his memory was impaired. Counsel also contended that Francisco would get lost and did not remember where the men’s room was located. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award damages, inclusive of Francisco’s medical care and pain and suffering. Defense counsel for the city and Fregoso argued that Francisco would only require a limited amount of future care.

Result:

Judge Victor Chavez ultimately let the landscapers, LandCare and West Coast out of the case, and the matter continued against the city and Fregoso. The jury apportioned 95 percent liability to Fregoso and 5 percent liability to Francisco. However, it apportioned no liability to the city. The jury determined that Francisco’s damages totaled $13.82 million. After apportionment, Francisco should recover $13,129,000.

Francisco DeLeon, Jr.: $50,000 Personal Injury: past economic losses; $6,200,000 Personal Injury: total future economic damages; $1,000,000 Personal Injury: past non-economic losses; $6,570,000 Personal Injury: future non-economic losses

Actual Award:

$13,129,000

Trial Information:

Judge:

Victor E. Chavez

Post Trial:

Fregoso’s counsel moved for a new trial, but the motion was denied. As a result, Fregoso’s insurance carrier appealed the verdict, claiming the apportionment was unsupported by the evidence.

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.