Case details

Defendant driver denied hitting plaintiff’s vehicle





Result type

Not present

brain, brain damage, brain injury, sensory, speech, tinnitus
On the morning of Aug. 9, 2009, plaintiff Gregory Weiss, 52, a real estate investor, was driving his 2007 Chevy Suburban on southbound Highway 101 in the county of Marin. He was traveling in the number two lane, of five lanes, with his wife, plaintiff Tiare Weiss, in the front passenger seat and their two sons in the back. Around the same time, a white customized/lifted 2007 Chevy Silverado pickup truck, operated by Paolo Franzi, entered the southbound highway at the Lucas Valley exit and proceeded to the number one, far-left/fast, lane. While the two vehicles were next to each other, they rounded a curve at the Central San Rafael exit and came close together. Mr. Weiss claimed that while rounding the curve, Franzi’s truck sideswiped his Suburban three times with hard impacts, causing the Suburban to swerve, but that he was able to regain control. He claimed that his family then motioned for Franzi to pull over, but that he did not. As a result, Mr. Weiss called 911 and pulled over to give a statement to a California Highway Patrol officer, as well as provide the officer with Franzi’s license plate number. Franzi was ultimately cited for violating California Vehicle Code § 20002(a), for a hit and run, as well as § 21658(a), for an unsafe lane change. In addition, Mr. Weiss claimed he suffered a brain injury during the accident. Mr. Weiss sued Franzi, alleging motor vehicle negligence for the alleged hit-and-run accident. The matter proceeded to judicial, nonbinding arbitration and on July 22, 2011, arbitrator Lawrence Strick found for Weiss in the amount of $60,000. However, Mr. Weiss rejected the award, and the matter proceeded to trial. At trial, Mr. Weiss claimed that when Franzi entered the highway, the defendant exhibited road rage, including driving fast, tailgating and cutting back and forth across all lanes of the freeway in an attempt to “shoot the gap.” He also accused Franzi of using profanity, jeering and flipping him off during the incident. In addition, Mr. Weiss claimed that after the CHP officer took his statement and Franzi’s license plate number, the officer went to Franzi’s house in an attempt to speak with him, but had to leave his card. Mr. Weiss further claimed Franzi then took over one month to contact the officer back and give his statement. Franzi denied there was any contact between the vehicles and claimed that it was Mr. Weiss who was driving erratically. He also claimed that Mr. Weiss was tailgating him and that it was Mr. Weiss who used profanity during the incident. Franzi further claimed that he had made several attempts to contact the CHP officer during the month before finally being able to give his statement., Ten days after the accident, Mr. Weiss presented to an emergency room. He claimed he the accident with Franzi aggravated a pre-existing brain injury. Prior to the subject accident, Mr. Weiss suffered a moderate to severe brain injury in 2006 at the Petaluma Speedway when his racecar flipped and rolled over 12 times. He then underwent a craniotomy and had a titanium plate fused to his skull. Following the racecar accident, Mr. Weiss had over 23 symptoms of severe cognitive impairment, including headaches, memory loss, lack of attention and concentration, diminished executive functioning skills, and blurred vision, amongst others. However, according to his family, friends and doctors, Mr. Weiss was 90-percent better before the alleged 2009 accident with Franzi. Mr. Weiss claimed that after the 2009 accident, all 23-plus symptoms were aggravated and that he developed a new symptom of tinnitus. A large part of Mr. Weiss’ treatment included trigger point injections every 2 weeks, Botox injections for his headaches, a Fentanyl patch that treats ongoing pain, and six to eight Percocet a day to relieve his pain. In addition, Mr. Weiss claimed that the subject accident exacerbated his Multiple Sclerosis, which wasn’t diagnosed until 2010. Mr. Weiss’ treating neuropsychologist and treating neurologist opined that the subject accident magnified Weiss’ symptoms and that he is now unemployable. Thus, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award Mr. Weiss $864,904.31 in total damages, including $50,000 for past lost wages, $50,000 for one-half of his past medical costs, $383,960.31 for 27.7 years of future lost earnings, $215,000 for past pain and suffering (based on $5,000 a month times 43 months), and $165,000 for future pain and suffering (based on $500 a month for 337 months). In addition, Mr. Weiss claimed property damage to his vehicle in the amount of $5,158.61, which included repairs to the left, front bumper, the left side driver’s door, the rear door and the left, rear quart panel. Mr. Weiss’ wife, Tiare Weiss, sought recovery of damages for her loss of consortium. Defense counsel noted that all experts, including Mr. Weiss’ treating physicians and the defense’s medical experts, agreed that Mr. Weiss is an “eggshell” plaintiff, in that he is unusually susceptible to further due to his brain injury. All experts also agreed that not much force was required to reinjure Mr. Weiss’ brain. However, the defense’s experts denied that Mr. Weiss sustained any injury in the subject accident and opined that Mr. Weiss is able to work. Defense counsel argued that Mr. Weiss’ treatment now is the same as it was before the alleged incident with Franzi. In addition, counsel contended that in 1999, the American Academy of Neurology put to rest the issue of whether physical trauma could cause MS, and that it opined that physical trauma could not. The defense’s biomechanical engineering expert found that the damage to Mr. Weiss’ vehicle was mainly key marks that did not match up with Franzi’s truck. Thus, defense counsel asked the jury to award nothing to Mr. Weiss and his wife.
Superior Court of Marin County, Marin, CA

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