Case details

Defense: Lack of hazard lights on plaintiffs’ car caused crash





Result type

Not present

carpal tunnel syndrome, knee, meniscus, tear, wrist
On Feb. 24, 2007, plaintiff Bismarck Varela, 30, a silk-screener, was driving on State Route 91 in Riverside, accompanied by his mother, plaintiff Sonia Varela, 57, a hair stylist, seated in the passenger seat, when they were involved in a hit-and-run sideswipe collision. As a result, their car spun 360 degrees, went across four lanes of traffic, and ultimately settled at a 45-degree angle against the median with the rear of the vehicle protruding into the carpool lane. Mr. Varela then exited the vehicle, went around to the passenger side to assist his mother, and unfastened her seat belt while a bystander called 911. However, while he was assisting his mother, Mr. Varela saw a vehicle operated by William Hunden approaching in the carpool lane. Mr. Varela claimed that he subsequently used the upper half of his body to shield his mother, who was still seated in the passenger seat, while his legs hung out of the vehicle. Hunden’s vehicle then impacted the rear of the Varela vehicle at approximately 11 p.m. Mr. Varela claimed to his left knee, shoulder and wrist, while his mother claimed internal to her lungs and kidney. Mr. Varela and Ms. Varela sued Hunden and the owner of the hit-and-run vehicle, Shelly Glover. The Varelas alleged Hunden and Glover were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles. The Varelas ultimately did not pursue their case against Glover, who reported her vehicle stolen and was not the driver at the time of the accident. Thus, the matter proceeded to trial against Hunden only. The Varelas claimed that Hunden had the ability to avoid the collision, since he was approaching a disabled vehicle, but failed to do so because he was driving too fast. Hunden claimed that the Varela vehicle did not have its hazard lights on or have any other warning to indicate that it was a disabled vehicle. Thus, he claimed he acted reasonably in response to the condition presented., The Varelas were taken from the scene of the accident and brought to an emergency room. Mr. Varela claimed he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee, a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, and a traumatic carpal tunnel syndrome in his left wrist. He ultimately underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 21, 2007, and a carpal tunnel release in 2008. Mr. Varela also treated with physical therapy. Mr. Varela claimed that while his knee and wrist have mostly resolved, he still requires arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. He also claimed he missed six months of work, and is restricted in the use of his left arm. Thus, Mr. Varela sought recovery of $86,700 in past medical costs, $44,000 in future medical costs and $4,800 in past lost earnings. However, since Mr. Varela did not have auto insurance, he could not claim pain-and-suffering damages. Ms. Varela claimed that she suffered a pulmonary edema in her lungs, as well as kidney failure, as a result of the accident. As a result, she has been on a dialysis machine since 18 months post-accident. Ms. Varela claimed she will be on a dialysis machine for the rest of her life, and that her life is now shortened by 11 years. She also claimed she can never return to work. Thus, Ms. Varela sought recovery of $292,000 in total lost earnings, $70,000 in past medical costs, $400,000 in future medical costs, and $400,000 for her past and future pain and suffering. Hunden’s counsel did not dispute Mr. Varela’s , but contended that Mr. Varela was comparatively at fault for causing them, since he exited the car and should have remained safely seat-belted inside. Hunden’s counsel also contended that Ms. Varela’s kidney failure was caused by a pre-existing renal deficiency, and was totally unrelated to the accident. Counsel further contended that Ms. Varela’s pulmonary edema was caused by her inability to excrete excess fluid, as a result of her pre-existing kidney failure.
Superior Court of Riverside County, Riverside, CA

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