Case details

Crash-related injury will cause early retirement: motorcyclist





Result type

Not present

emotional distress, fracture, leg, mental, psychological
During the evening of Nov. 20, 2014, plaintiff Colton Kirwan, an off-duty police officer, was riding his personal motorcycle on Westwing, in Aliso Viejo, when a sport utility vehicle operated by Parul Gupta pulled out from a side street in front of him. The motorcycle subsequently struck the SUV, causing Kirwan to fly over the handlebars, impact the SUV’s windshield, and roll onto the hood, where he remained for 30 minutes until paramedics responded to the scene. Kirwan sued Gupta, alleging that Gupta was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Gupta had a stop sign at the intersection and that there was no traffic signal for Kirwan’s direction of travel. Thus, counsel argued that Gupta failed to yield the right-of-way to Kirwan. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert opined that, based on the absence of skid marks and the low amount of physical damage to the motorcycle and Gupta’s vehicle, Kirwan was traveling at or under the speed limit of 35 mph as he approached the intersection. Both parties agreed that although it was nighttime, visibility was not an issue. Defense counsel blamed the accident on Kirwan, arguing that Kirwan’s high performance motorcycle was traveling in excess of the 35 mph speed limit, possibly traveling as high as 60 mph. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert opined that if Kirwan had been going the speed limit, the collision would not have occurred. The experts agreed that there were no skid marks and that the impact speed was approximately 25 mph. However, the defense’s accident reconstruction expert used computer simulation software called PC Crash to support his opinion that Kirwan had gotten his motorcycle up to 60 mph and then slowed to 25 mph just before impact. In response, plaintiff’s counsel argued that the 60 mph allegation required the impact to have occurred in a very specific location on the road, which was refuted by the physical evidence, including photographs of the vehicles at rest and scuff marks on the pavement made by the motorcycle when it hit the ground., After the impact, Kirwan lay on the hood of the SUV, while briefly unconscious, until he was transported to a hospital. He sustained a fracture of his right femur. The following day, Kirwan underwent an internal fixation, which required drilling a tunnel into the femur and inserting a permanent, titanium rod in the center of the femur. Kirwan was off of work for one month following the accident. He was then on limited duty for six months. However, Kirwan testified that due to his continuing pain and anxiety, he planned to retire early, which would affect his future earnings and retirement benefits. The plaintiff’s economic expert calculated that Kirwan’s past loss of earnings totaled $53,000, and future loss of earnings and benefits would total $870,000. Defense counsel contested Kirwan’s future-loss-of-income claim, arguing that Kirwan’s early retirement was speculative given that Kirwan had returned to full duty and had not complained about an inability to perform his duties. Prior to trial, the parties stipulated that the plaintiff’s damages would not exceed Gupta’s $1.25 million insurance policy limit.
Superior Court of Orange County, Orange, CA

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