Case details

Driver failed to see manlift prior to impact, plaintiff claimed




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, chest, cognition, coma, fracture, head, mental, psychological, rib, shoulder, traumatic brain injury
On Oct. 12, 2012, at approximately 6:30 a.m., plaintiff Thomas Kahler, 21, an oil well testing and servicing technician, was operating a Haulotte manlift, from its boom basket, on northbound Patton Way, in Bakersfield. As he was pulling the machine into a driveway on the east side of Patton Way, the manlift basket, where Kahler was standing, was struck by a Ford F350 pickup truck operated by Scott Nelson, who was driving on northbound Patton Way. Kahler was wearing a helmet and a safety lanyard, which tethered him to the manlift, at the time of the accident. However, the impact launched Kahler up and out of the manlift basket, propelling him at a high rate of speed, causing his body to swing violently on the lanyard. As a result, his safety helmet flew off, and he slammed into a chain link fence and sea-train steel container adjacent to the eastern sidewalk of Patton Way, almost killing him. Kahler sustained to his head and was rendered was unconscious. Kahler sued Nelson and Nelson’s employer, Delta Testing Services Inc., which also owned Nelson’s truck. Kahler alleged that Nelson was negligent in the operation of the truck and that Delta Testing was vicariously liable for Nelson’s actions. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Nelson failed to see the huge, very visible, yellow Haulotte manlift directly in front of him, causing Nelson to slam into the manlift basket at approximately 35 to 40 mph. Counsel noted that even though Kahler’s manlift was a bright yellow, the basket had full reflective tape on it, and the manlift was being operated in front of Nelson, in the same lane of travel, Nelson claimed he didn’t see it. Plaintiff’s counsel had consultants re-enact the collision on Oct. 12, 2013, exactly one year after the accident, at precisely the same time as the subject collision, and under the same weather and lighting conditions. Counsel noted that the very same manlift involved in the accident was used for the re-enactment, along with an exemplar Ford F350 to represent the truck Nelson was driving. According to plaintiff’s counsel, witnesses at depositions acknowledged that the re-enactment photos depicted lighting and visibility conditions that were the same as they were on the date of the incident. They also testified that the visibility of the manlift, as depicted in the re-enactment photos, was identical to what it was at the time of the collision and that the photos clearly show that the manlift and manlift basket were easily visible within 120 feet of the point of impact, at the very least. Nelson testified at deposition that he never saw the manlift in front of him until hearing the smashing of glass from his windshield., First responders found Kahler hanging unconscious from the lanyard, still attached to the manlift basket, with blood dripping from his head. The responders claimed they initially thought Kahler was dead, but they ultimately removed Kahler from the harness connected to the manlift and laid him in the roadway, stabilizing him until the paramedics arrived to rush him to the hospital. Kahler was unconscious at the scene, with a Glasgow score of 9, and he remained in a coma for eight days at Kern County Medical Center, in Bakersfield. The plaintiff’s treating physicians initially opined that Kahler would end up in a permanent vegetative state, but, fortunately, Kahler did regain consciousness. He underwent a series of CT scans that revealed scalp lacerations; multiple subdural and intracranial hemorrhages in his head brain; fractures of the scapula, clavicle and five ribs; a pneumothorax (lung collapse) on the left side; lacerated spleen; and free fluid in the pelvis. He was ultimately diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury with cognitive deficits and defects. While in the coma, Kahler underwent open reduction and internal fixation surgery to repair the displaced fracture of the left clavicle. He then remained in the Intensive Care Unit for 10 days, until he was sent to a direct observation room. On Oct. 25, 2012, Kahler transferred to HealthSouth Bakersfield Rehabilitation Hospital, in Bakersfield. Due to his impairment and immobility, Kahler underwent comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation care, such as physical therapy and mobilization skills that included bed mobility, transfers, and gait training. He also received occupational therapy for self-care skills, including feeding, grooming, upper and lower body dressing, functional transfers, and bathroom skills. In addition, Kahler received speech therapy, underwent training on daily-living activities, and worked with a clinical psychologist on dealing with possible depression and adjustment difficulties. Kahler was discharged from HealthSouth on Nov. 9, 2012, with a discharge status that indicated that he is independent with eating; requires supervision for grooming, upper body dressing and toileting; requires minimum assistance for lower body dressing and bathing; and requires supervision for function transfers, including bathroom transfers. His discharge status also indicated that he was able to ambulate up to 200 feet with the single-point cane or hand-held assistance/contact guard assistance without an assistive device and that he is continent of bowel and bladder. The discharge status further indicated that Kahler was at modified independence for comprehension and expression; required supervision for problem solving, social interaction and memory; and was somewhat impulsive at the time. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that all of Kahler’s are a direct result of Kahler’s head and body being smashed into the fence and steel container during the subject accident. Kahler’s brain and orthopedic have all been substantiated by his treating doctors, and through other expert evaluation and testing. Kahler claimed he continues to suffer chronic pain and that as a result of the traumatic brain injury, he continues to suffer cognitive deficits and defects. He claimed he lost memory of his pre-incident life and events, and that he does not remember his mother or father. He alleged that only knows his parents because he has been reintroduced to them post-incident and accepts their word that he is their son. Kahler also claimed that as a result of his traumatic brain injury, he will never be gainfully employed. He alleged that he needs permanent supervised care to help him manage his life on a daily basis and to prevent him from hazards so that he does not inadvertently hurt himself or others. Specifically, he stated that his brain “does not work the same,” and that “it feels scrambled.” Thus, plaintiff’s counsel contended that Kahler’s are severe, permanent and forever life-altering.
Superior Court of Kern County, Kern, CA

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