Case details

Defense: Crash caused by driver negligence, not road defect





Result type

Not present

brain, brain damage, brain injury, cognition, fracture, head, mental, psychological, skull, traumatic brain injury
On Nov. 15, 2008, at approximately 11 a.m., plaintiff Samantha Gilworth, 3, was strapped in a baby seat in a vehicle traveling on State Route 58 in Hinkley and operated by her grandmother, Ruth Gilworth. As the vehicle slowed down to make a left turn onto Hidden River Road, it was rear-ended by a pickup truck traveling 60 mph and operated by Rodney Most. Samantha suffered head . Samantha’s aunt, Wanda Mello, acting as the child’s guardian ad litem, sued the State of California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Mello alleged that Caltrans failed to properly maintain the intersection, creating a dangerous condition of public property. Caltrans brought a third-party claim against Most, alleging that Most was negligent in the operation of the pickup truck. Mello subsequently added Most as a direct defendant, but then settled, on Samantha’s behalf, with Most for his insurance policy limits. Thus, the matter proceeded to trial against Caltrans only. Plaintiff’s counsel contended there was a road defect on SR-58 in the area of the subject accident. Counsel argued that Caltrans failed to provide a left-turn lane, or pocket, and that this caused the rear-end collision when Samantha’s grandmother attempted to make a left turn onto Hidden River Road. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel argued that the existence of a left turn area would have prevented the collision. Caltrans claimed that there was no defect in the specific area of SR-58 and that the roadway was safe when used with reasonable care. It also claimed the area in question did not meet the criteria for a left turn lane, or pocket, and that the accident was caused strictly by the negligence of the drivers involved., Samantha sustained fractures to her skull and a traumatic brain injury to the frontal lobes. She was subsequently taken by ambulance from the scene of the accident and brought to an emergency room. Samantha ultimately underwent a craniotomy and remained hospitalized for one month. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Samantha suffers from cognitive deficits involving retention, memory, concentration, and ability to read and write. As a result, she is in special education classes at school and is very dependent in several aspects of her everyday life. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Samantha roughly $20 million in total damages, which included damages for Samantha’s pain and suffering, and $6 million in economic damages that consisted of Samantha’s future life care plan (assisted living) and loss of future earning capacity. Defense counsel conceded that Samantha suffered a traumatic brain injury, but argued that Samantha will eventually be able to work in some capacity and live independently with some assistance. Prior to the verdict, and mid-way through the trial, the parties established a $3 million/$1 million high-low agreement.
Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA

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