Case details

Compromised rail caused truck to fall from bridge: driver




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

brain, traumatic brain injury
On Jan. 9, 2018, plaintiff Virgil Mortensen, 56, a truck driver, was driving a tractor-trailer owned by his employer, Swift Transportation, in rainy conditions. As he was traveling on an elevated transition road, heading from northbound Interstate 5 to westbound State Route 118, on the boarder of the Pacoima and Mission Hills areas of Los Angeles, Mortensen lost control of his tractor-trailer and struck the right (north) concrete bridge rail. Mortensen’s tractor-trailer then went over the bridge rail and fell to the roadway below. Mortensen claimed to his head. Mortensen sued the owners of the elevated transition road, the state of California and the State of California Department of Transportation (known as Caltrans). Mortensen alleged that the defendants were negligent in the repair and maintenance of the bridge rail, creating a dangerous condition. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that there had been a prior motor vehicle collision on elevated transition road, causing damage to the bridge rail and that in response, Caltrans bolted a steel beam to the concrete bridge rail. Counsel contended that the load-bearing capacity of the concrete structure was significantly compromised from the prior collision and that had Caltrans made sufficient repairs, Mortensen’s tractor-trailer would have been redirected back onto the highway without causing serious injury. Defense counsel asserted that Mortensen was the sole cause of the accident. Counsel contended that Mortensen was driving recklessly, in that he was traveling at an unsafe speed for the weather conditions and was distracted by speaking hands-free on a cell phone. Defense counsel asserted that, given the high speed, weight, vehicle height and angle of impact of the out-of-control tractor-trailer, even a pristine bridge rail would not have prevented Mortensen’s ., Mortensen was taken to a hospital, where he was determined to have suffered a traumatic brain injury, resulting in left-sided hemiparesis. He now requires the use of a wheelchair. All of Mortensen’s past medical bills were paid by his employer’s workers compensation insurer. The workers compensation lien totaled $2,729,848.78 (Indemnity: $86,883.68; Medical: $2,615,312.02; Permanency: $27,653.08) and was resolved for $150,000 in exchange for a third-party compromise and release. Mortensen claimed that he will not be able to return to work. He also claimed that he will require future, ongoing medical care and in-home medical assistance, as he lives at home with his wife. Mortensen sought recovery of between $4,294,562 and $5,268,009 in future medical costs, and between $212,122 and $591,120 in future lost earnings. He also sought recovery of an unspecified amount of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel disputed the nature and severity of Mortensen’s residual complaints. Counsel also disputed the amount of Mortensen’s alleged future medical costs.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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