Case details

Defense claimed plaintiff tried to beat merging tractor-trailer





Result type

Not present

back, degenerative disc disease, neck, pain
At around 11:10 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2010, plaintiff Robert Sepe Jr., 41, a construction worker, was traveling in the number one lane of the connector road from southbound Capital City Freeway (also known as Business 80) to eastbound Interstate 80, in Sacramento. As he was driving next to a semi-tractor trailer truck operated by Elwood Hill, the truck merged into his lane, allegedly causing his vehicle to bounce back and forth between the guardrail and the truck’s trailer. Sepe claimed to his neck and back. Sepe sued Hill and the owner of the tractor-trailer, Gordon Trucking Inc., which was also Hill’s employer. Sepe alleged that Hill was negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer and that Gordon Trucking was vicariously liable for Hill’s actions. Sepe claimed that he was traveling next to Hill’s truck when it attempted to merge into the lane he was occupying without signaling. He claimed that as a result, Hill struck him and caused his vehicle to be “ping-ponged” between the guardrail and the truck trailer. Sepe further claimed that Hill “ran” from the scene. Defense counsel contended that, based on eyewitness testimony, Sepe was attempting to pass and “beat” Hill’s truck as Hill was already in the process of merging to the left. Thus, counsel argued that Sepe caused the contact himself., Sepe claimed that he sustained herniated lumbar and cervical discs at the L4-5 and C5-6 levels. He first sought medical care about two months after the collision and he ultimately underwent an L4-5 fusion with hardware about 16 months post-accident. Sepe then underwent a C5-6 disc replacement surgery 4.5 years following the accident. The plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon testified about the lumbar fusion and the plaintiff’s treating neurosurgeon testified about the disc replacement surgery. Sepe claimed that he was unable to return to work after the collision and that he will never be able to work again. He also claimed that he is unable to perform any heavy physical labor of the type he performed prior to the accident. Thus, Sepe sought recovery of $320,000 in medical costs, $172,000 in past wage loss, and $896,000 in future wage loss. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Sepe initially brought a punitive damages claim, but it was ultimately dismissed. Defense counsel argued that the forces in the accident were insufficient to cause Sepe’s alleged traumatic disc ruptures. Counsel also argued that Sepe’s need for surgery was due to degenerative disc disease and years of pre-accident heavy labor.
United States District Court, Eastern District, Sacramento, CA

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