Case details

Couple claimed driver’s speeding in fog caused crash





Result type

Not present

amnesia, ankle, anxiety, brain, chest, concentration, depression mental, fracture, hemothorax, impairment, insomnia, leg, mental, psychological, rib
On Jan. 24, 2011, at approximately 9 a.m., plaintiff Juana Santivanez, 62, a retiree, was driving east on Orange Street in rural Kern County, accompanied by her husband, plaintiff Gavino Santivanez, 73, a retiree, in the front passenger seat. After stopping for a stop sign at the intersection with State Route 43, they proceeded into the intersection and were broadsided by a flatbed truck operated by Enrique Chilaca, who was driving north on SR-43. Ms. and Mr. Santivanez each claimed multiple from the collision. Ms. and Mr. Santivanez sued Chilaca and the owners of the truck, Chilaca’s employers, B&L Casing Service, LLC and B&L Equipment Rentals Inc. The Santivanezes alleged that Chilaca was negligent in the operation of his vehicle, and that B&L Casing and B&L Equipment were vicariously liable for his actions since Chilaca was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The Santivanezes claimed that Chilaca was driving at a speed in excess of the posted 55-mph speed limit during foggy weather conditions. The plaintiffs’ accident reconstruction expert downloaded the Electronic Control Module, or ECM, data from the defendants’ truck and testified that the data revealed that Chilaca was, indeed, speeding on northbound SR-43 in foggy weather conditions. Thus, plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Chilaca was solely at fault for the collision due to his unsafe speed in the fog. Chilaca claimed he saw the plaintiffs’ vehicle from 400 feet back, applied his brakes and swerved to the right, but was not able to avoid the collision. However, defense counsel contended that Chilaca was not speeding and that he bore no responsibility for the collision because Ms. Santivanez failed to yield as she drove away from the stop sign into the intersection. Counsel further contended that the police report for the accident listed Ms. Santivanez as the cause of the accident for failing to yield., Mr. and Ms. Santivanez were both taken from the scene of the accident by ambulance and brought to an emergency room. Mr. Santivanez suffered a traumatic tear of his descending thoracic aorta; bilateral hemothorax; a right pneumothorax; bilateral rib fractures; a right tibia fracture; a right, lateral malleolar fracture; and a left, bimalleolar fracture. He subsequently underwent emergency surgery to repair his aortic tear. While hospitalized, Mr. Santivanez coded on two occasions, resulting in oxygen deprivation. While still in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, it was determined that Mr. Santivanez had an altered mental status due to the lack of oxygen to his brain when he coded. A CT scan of his brain ultimately confirmed a right, frontal lobe infarction, and Mr. Santivanez was ultimately diagnosed with cognitive and memory deficiencies. Mr. Santivanez claimed residual pain as well as cognitive impairments of memory, concentration deficits, and poor insight, coupled with personality changes, depression, mental confusion, and post-traumatic amnesia. He claimed he now requires around-the-clock care and supervision. Thus, Mr. Santivanez sought recovery of $536,158 in actual medical costs, as well as recovery of damages for his future medical costs/care plans, and his past and future pain and suffering. Ms. Santivanez sustained a pulmonary contusion, a right pneumothorax, and right rib fractures. She was later diagnosed with depression, anxiety and chronic pain. Ms. Santivanez claimed that she continues to suffer from post-concussive syndrome, impaired memory, altered behavior, insomnia, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. She also claimed that she now suffers from urinary incontinence and post-traumatic hyperphagia — an abnormally increased appetite for, and consumption of, food — causing weight gain. Thus, Ms. Santivanez sought recovery of $201,409.72 in total medical costs with no adjustments, as well as recovery of damages for her future medical costs/care plans, and her past and future pain and suffering.
Superior Court of Kern County, Bakersfield, CA

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