Case details

Claimant: Drunken driver caused brain and throat injuries





Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, head injury, nerve damage, neurological, neuropathy, subdural hematoma, traumatic brain injury
On Feb. 20, 2014, at approximately 10:30 p.m., claimant Eileen Thomas, 53, a lighting engineer, was stopped for a stop sign on northbound Dover Drive, at the intersection with Mariners Drive, in Newport Beach, when she was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Benjamin Scanlan. Through facts gathered by the police, and during Thomas’ counsel’s subsequent investigation, it was determined that Scanlan previously spent a majority of the date in question — from 2 p.m. to the time of the accident — becoming increasingly intoxicated. Scanlan began consuming a half-pint bottle of 99 Bananas liqueur from Bal Port Liquor at around 2 p.m., while he played scratch-off lottery tickets at various locations over the following hours. At around 8 p.m., Scanlan arrived at “The Alley,” a restaurant and bar, where he sat at the bar and consumed one whiskey drink and one beer. At approximately 9:45 p.m., a busboy at The Alley allegedly observed Scanlan making frequent trips to the bathroom and appearing to consume additional alcohol from an unknown bottle of liquor hidden in his pants. The busboy also alleged that Scanlan later asked him if he wanted to finish the bottle with him. In addition, the bartender at The Alley claimed he observed Scanlan becoming excessively intoxicated and aggressive, and was, therefore, asked to leave the bar. Scanlan was then escorted from the bar by security, but Scanlan attempted to re-enter the bar and became aggressive once again when he was denied re-entry. Scanlan was ultimately subdued by bar security and taken to the front of the restaurant, where Scanlan laid down on the ground and refused to leave. As a result, the Newport Beach Police Department was notified by The Alley staff and told there was an intoxicated patron who refused to leave the premises. Before the police arrived, Scanlan left The Alley and walked back to Bal Port Liquor, where he attempted to buy more alcohol. However, the owner of Bal Port Liquor observed Scanlan’s allegedly highly intoxicated state and refused to sell him any more alcohol. Scanlan then told the Bal Port Liquor owner that he had just been assaulted and asked him to call the police, but that while the owner did so, Scanlan attempted to steal several miniature bottles of alcohol from the store counter. The store owner ultimately observed Scanlan’s attempt to leave with the bottles and demanded that he drop them, which Scanlan did before leaving the store. After leaving the liquor store, Scanlan returned to his vehicle, which was parked near The Alley, causing security guards from The Alley to attempt to prevent Scanlan from getting into his vehicle and driving away, but they were unable to do so. As Scanlan was driving away from The Alley, the police arrived and observed Scanlan exhibiting clear signs of an intoxicated driver. As a result, the police activated their lights and sirens, and entered into a full Code-3 pursuit of Scanlan’s vehicle. This pursuit lasted for approximately one mile, with Scanlan traveling in excess of 50 mph, and colliding with traffic cones and curbs along the way. The pursuit led Scanlan to the subject intersection, where he slammed into the rear of Thomas’ stopped vehicle. The force of the impact caused Thomas’ vehicle to be pushed more than 500 feet down the roadway, up the curb, and into a tree. Thomas sustained a head injury and was subsequently knocked unconscious. She also a throat injury and other associated . Scanlan was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol while causing injury (a felony), evading a peace officer/reckless driving, and failure to stop at an accident scene (a misdemeanor). Scanlan’s charges were enhanced by three years in prison due to personally inflicting great bodily harm during the commission of a felony. Thomas filed a claim against Scanlan, alleging the respondent was negligent in the operation of his vehicle by driving under the influence of alcohol. Thomas’ counsel contended that, through a pre-litigation investigation, it was discovered that Scanlan had a history of running from, and disobeying, the police, including arrests in 1999 and, more recently, in October 2013 for resisting a peace officer. Counsel contended that this prior history of running and disobeying the police, coupled with Scanlan’s conduct on the night of the incident — becoming intoxicated and evading police in his drunken state — exhibited a “conscious disregard for the safety of others,” such that Scanlan could be held accountable for such conduct with significant punitive damages., Thomas was transported by ambulance to the Intensive Care Unit at Western Medical Center, in Santa Ana, where she was admitted and intubated. Thomas claimed she suffered a subdural hematoma, resulting in a mild traumatic brain injury. She also claimed she suffered a thyroid cartilage fracture, liver transaminitis, a left wrist contusion, and respiratory failure for more than three days. Thomas was intubated up until March 2, 2014. She was then extubated and had a nasogastric tube placed in her nose for feeding while she remained hospitalized until March 7, 2014. Thomas was then discharged to a rehabilitation clinic, where she stayed for seven days. Thomas claimed that, ultimately, the trauma and nerve damage to her throat and thyroid cartilage area were her most significant , such that she experienced significant swallowing difficulties for more than six months after the incident. She claimed that while the NG-tube remained in place for the first two weeks she was home, it was eventually replaced with a more permanent G-tube, which was inserted into her stomach on March 25, 2014, and remained in place for six months thereafter. Thus, Thomas sought recovery of approximately $247,050.30 in past medical costs and approximately $35,000 in past lost earnings. She also sought recovery of damages for her pain and suffering. In addition, Thomas’ counsel asserted that Scanlan’s despicable conduct warranted an award for punitive damages. The respondent’s insurance carrier claimed that, despite the ongoing placement of the G-tube, Thomas made a very good recovery and that Thomas had recovered sufficiently enough to return to work full-time less than four months after the accident.
Matter not filed, CA

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