Case details

Distracted tractor-trailer driver caused crash, bicyclist claimed





Result type

Not present

foot, fracture, heel, infertility, pelvis, penis, testicle, urological
On Dec. 18, 2009, plaintiff Matthew Kelly, 24, a student, rode his bicycle past a tractor-trailer operated by Ubaldo Rosales, who was stopped at a red light on Orange Avenue in San Diego, and stopped in the crosswalk in front of the truck. Not knowing that Kelly was in front of the truck’s left front tire, Rosales attempted to make a right turn on the red light and pushed the bicyclist through the intersection until a Good Samaritan waved the truck to stop. As a result, Kelly sustained degloving , a pelvic fracture and a traumatic amputation of his genitalia. Kelly sued sued Rosales; his employer, EZ Rider & Co.; and the maintainers of the intersection, the state of California Department of Transportation and the city of San Diego. He alleged that Rosales was negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer and that EZ Rider & Co. was vicariously liable for his actions. Caltrans and the city were ultimately dismissed for mutual waiver of costs. Thus, the matter continued against Rosales and EZ Rider & Co. only. Kelly’s counsel contended that a truck the size of Rosales’ vehicle should not have been in the narrow intersection and should have taken a safer route. Counsel also contended that Rosales was lost, may have been on his cell phone getting directions, and should not have been attempting to make a right turn, which required the truck to encroach into opposing lanes of traffic. In addition, plaintiff’s counsel contended that Kelly’s decision to pass the truck was reasonable and that by placing himself in the crosswalk 10 to 15 feet in front of the truck, Kelly had placed himself in a zone of safety, where Rosales should have been able to see him. The plaintiff’s human factors expert testified that there was a systems failure on the part of EZ Rider & Co. in directing its driver to destinations, and that Rosales was essentially lost and should have used a wider, more accommodating street to make the subject turn. The expert also opined that the bicyclist would be viewable by Rosales prior to the accident. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified that Kelly positioned himself 10 to 15 feet in front of the defendants’ tractor-trailer and stopped while waiting for the traffic light to phase to green. The expert also testified that Rosales jumped the light a second or two before the light turned green and overtook the bicyclist. Rosales claimed that he was not lost and that he was following appropriate directions to his destination. He also claimed that his route and turn were reasonable. In addition, Rosales denied being on his cell phone at the time of the accident. Defense counsel argued that it was extremely unlikely for Rosales to detect Kelly in front of his truck because the crosswalk was empty when Rosales approached the intersection and stopped, and it was unexpected that a cyclist would pass in front of his truck. Counsel also argued that the hood of Rosales’ truck and steering wheel blocked his view of Kelly. Defense counsel further argued that Kelly was comparatively negligent by riding in front of the truck, rather than stopping behind or beside it. The defense’s truck expert testified that the route and turn Rosales used were reasonable and ordinary. The defense’s accident reconstruction and bicycle safety expert testified that Kelly should not have gone in front of the truck and that Kelly was barely visible to the truck driver, if at all., Kelly sustained severe fractures to his pelvis, traumatic amputations of his testicles and a degloving injury to his penis, almost castrating him. As a result, he was taken to a hospital, where his penis had to be amputated and he spent the next three weeks. The surgeons were ultimately able to preserve a penile stump and used skin grafts to cover it, but Kelly is permanently infertile due to the loss of his testicles in the accident. Kelly was unable to walk for some time due to the severe fractures to his pelvis and subsequently developed a pressure wound on his left heel, which was open to the bone. The bone then became infected and he had four surgeries on his foot, eventually requiring one-quarter of his heel bone to be shaved off. As a result, he has no padding in the heel and has to wear a shoe insert to help with pain from walking. However, Kelly claimed he can no longer run. In total, Kelly spent 28 days in the hospital, undergoing numerous surgeries, before transferring to a rehabilitation facility. Thus, Kelly sought recovery of $758,730 in past medical costs, $636,700 in future medical costs, $48,829 in past loss of earnings, $98,371 in future loss of earnings, and an unspecified amount of damages for his past and future pain and suffering.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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