A California jury has awarded forty-nine million dollars to a student injured in a truck collision. The student suffered life-changing injuries including traumatic injury to his brain.
Santa Clara has not seen such a large award for a single-plaintiff in this decade. In fact, $49 million may be the largest award of this type since 1999.
What makes this story especially newsworthy is that Santa Clara juries have a reputation for being very conservative and typically not willing to enter such large awards.
While some believe the award will be overturned on appeal, many believe that it will not. This is due largely to the fact that a large portion of the verdict was for damages arising from the plaintiff’s out of pocket expenses.
The incident took place on the Pacheco Pass in May 2007. According the attorney for the plaintiff, two trucks collided at or near the center line. One of the trucks then collided with the plaintiff’s car. As a result of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff, he will now require medical attention at all times of the day for the rest of his life.
The verdict can be broken down as follows: almost three and half million dollars for past medical expenses. Four and a half million for future lost earnings. Thirteen and a half million for general damages. Twenty seven and half million for future medical costs. Joint and several liability was imposed on the defendants for the special damages and several liability for the generals, according to the personal injury lawyer for the plaintiff.
According to the lawyer for the plaintiff, the significance of the size of the award is really a reflection on the high cost of providing medical care to individuals who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. While modern medicine has prosthetic devices for the loss of an arm or a leg, there simply isn’t any replacement for loss of brain function.
The trial, which lasted for 5 weeks, concluded with the jury finding one driver sixty percent at fault and the other driver and trucking company thirty-five percent at fault. Additionally, California was found to have five percent liability.
The defendant trucking company continues to maintain that its driver was not negligent and bears no fault in the occurrence of this incident.
A ten million dollar settlement was achieved between the plaintiff and the state of California prior to the conclusion of trial according to a lawyer for the state.