Case details

Collision with jackknifed truck resulted in traumatic injuries





Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, chest, face, facial bone, fracture, head, jaw, nose, rib, skull, traumatic brain injury
On Oct. 11, 2010, plaintiff Debra Hackett, 53, a bus driver, was operating an 18-passenger bus on Highway 12, near Isleton, when a tractor-trailer operated by Elaine McDonold, who was traveling in the opposite direction, braked for a vehicle and jackknifed into the opposite lane in front of Hackett. A collision occurred, rendering Hackett paralyzed from the waist down and causing a significant closed head injury. Hackett, by and through her guardian ad litem, C. Brooks Cutter, Esq., sued McDonold and McDonold’s employer, Silva Trucking Inc. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that McDonold was negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer and that Silva Trucking was vicariously liable for his actions. Silva Trucking admitted that its driver’s negligence was attributable to the company because McDonold was in the course and scope of employment at the time of the accident. Thus, the defendants conceded liability., Hackett sustained multiple skull fractures, facial fractures, a traumatic brain injury, a spinal cord injury, a fractured jaw, a lacerated liver, and broken ribs. She was subsequently life-flighted to U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where she underwent four months of trauma and neurocritical care. She was also sedated for over a month. Following her acute hospitalization and sub-acute care, Hackett was transferred to a skilled nursing facility near her residence. She then remained at the facility for the 2.5 years before trial, with three home visits/stays per week. During trial, plaintiffs’ counsel presented a future life-care plan that would allow Hackett to receive essentially the same skilled nursing care she required at home, necessitating 24-hour supervision by licensed vocational nurses, as well as additional medical and rehabilitation services. Counsel also argued for hospitalization and other needs, which were contested by defense counsel. Thus, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award Hackett, who is a mother to four children between the ages of 19 and 25, nearly $43 million in total damages. Counsel contended that of that total, Hackett should be awarded $5 million for past general damages, $20 million for future damages, and in excess of $16 million for future life care damages, which slightly exceeded what the plaintiffs’ life care planner and economist opined. In addition, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award a separate unspecified amount for the loss of consortium of Hackett’s husband, Bill Hackett, who she has been married to for over 31 years. Defense counsel conceded to all of Mrs. Hackett’s physical and mental damages, and stipulated to past medical expenses totaling approximately $1.1 million and lifetime wage loss damages totaling $272,254.00. Counsel also agreed that a lifetime of 24-hour-a-day life care would be needed whether it was at a residential facility or at home. However, defense counsel suggested that while Mrs. Hackett may return home for some period of time, it was not reasonably certain that she would remain home for her 26-year life expectancy. Counsel pointed out that the care Mrs. Hackett had been receiving for the prior three years was satisfactory. In addition, counsel presented various life care plans that included options for home care and/or care at a nursing home, and that these plans ranged from $3.8 million to $13 million. Thus, defense counsel asked the jury to not award both plaintiffs a total in excess of $15 million, inclusive of all of the plaintiffs’ damages.
Superior Court of Sacramento County, Sacramento, CA

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