Case details

Driver’s failure to keep proper lookout caused crash: bicyclist





Result type

Not present

anxiety, brain, brain injury, clavicle, concussion, fracture, head, left shoulder, mental, psychological, shoulder, traumatic brain injury
On July 15, 2012, at around 3 p.m., plaintiff Jenny Urwiler, 30s, a business administrator, was bicycling on North Livermore Avenue, in Pleasanton, when she entered the intersection with May School Road and was struck by an Audi operated by Sarah Ingram. Urwiler subsequently sustained to her left shoulder and head. The California Highway Patrol officer who responded to the scene concluded that the accident was entirely the fault of Urwiler for making an unsafe turn in front of the Ingram vehicle without signaling. Urwiler sued Sarah Ingram and the owner of the Audi, William Ingram, Sarah Ingram’s father. Urwiler alleged that Ms. Ingram was negligent in the operation of her vehicle and that Mr. Ingram was vicariously liable for his daughter’s actions. Urwiler also alleged that Mr. Ingram was negligent for entrusting the vehicle to his daughter. Mr. Ingram’s insurer originally initiated an insurance claim against Urwiler, seeking recovery for the property damage to the Audi, which was later dropped after Urwiler filed her claim against the Ingrams. Defense counsel moved for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit on the grounds that because Urwiler had no memory of the collision, she, therefore, had no evidence to support her case. Plaintiff’s counsel countered that although Urwiler could not recall the collision, she should still be allowed to present her case to the jury because a jury could still base its decision as to whether Ms. Ingram had kept a proper lookout due to Ms. Ingram’s own statements about when and how she had first seen Urwiler. The court ultimately agreed that Urwiler did have at least some evidence with which to present her case, specifically that “Sarah Ingram [according to her own deposition testimony] was only two car lengths behind [Urwiler] when Sarah first saw her, that she was talking with her friend, Kaitlyn, [and] that [Urwiler] was wearing bright clothing and was clearly visible…” Thus, the court denied defense counsel’s motion for summary judgment. At trial, Urwiler claimed that although she was unable to recall the collision due to her concussion, based on her habit of signaling, she would not have made a left turn without first signaling. Urwiler also conceded that she had turned in front of the vehicle, but claimed that Ms. Ingram’s failure to see her until they were only two car-lengths apart was negligent, in that it had not allowed Ms. Ingram sufficient reaction time to avoid her. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel argued that Ms. Ingram failed to keep a proper lookout while driving. Counsel also argued that Mr. Ingram’s entrustment of the vehicle to Ms. Ingram was negligent because Ms. Ingram’s actions demonstrated that she was not a safe driver. Ms. Ingram and her friend, Kaitlyn, both claimed that Ms. Ingram had been keeping a proper lookout and that Urwiler had suddenly, without warning and without signaling, swerved in front of their vehicle. Thus, defense counsel argued that Ms. Ingram had kept a proper lookout and was not liable for the accident and that Urwiler was 100 percent responsible for the accident. Counsel presented evidence allegedly showing that Ms. Ingram had crossed over into the opposing lane of traffic in an effort to avoid Urwiler, who continued to turn into the roadway, but that the side of Ms. Ingram’s vehicle glanced Urwiler, who fell to the pavement. Counsel also presented telephone and text records, which established that Ms. Ingram was not using her phone at all while driving that day. The investigating officer also testified, as did Ms. Ingram and Kaitlyn, that Ms. Ingram’s demeanor after the accident was distraught. Defense counsel further contended that Ms. Ingram ran to Urwiler, who was lying in the road, and gave her what aid she could and that Ms. Ingram only recalled “seeing the bicyclist” when it was “two car-lengths” away from her. The defense’s biomechanical accident reconstruction expert disputed the claim of Urwiler, who could not recall the accident and initially attempted to claim that Ms. Ingram had struck Urwiler’s bicycle in the bicycle lane. The defense expert explained that he found a yellow paint transfer on the sprockets of Urwiler’s rear bike tire and that lab analysis revealed that the paint was an exact match of the state of California’s Department of Transportation highway-yellow road paint. Thus, the defense’s expert testified that the accident reconstruction and biomechanical evidence was consistent with Ms. Ingram’s contentions that Urwiler had suddenly swerved in front of the Ingram vehicle and that Ms. Ingram had taken an evasive action by swerving and braking. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel conceded before trial/in opening statements that the accident occurred outside of the bicycle lane., Urwiler suffered a non-displaced fracture of her left clavicle and a concussion with a mild traumatic brain injury. She was subsequently transported by ambulance to a hospital, where her left arm was placed in a sling. Urwiler claimed that she was still suffering from some post-concussive symptoms, including memory difficulties and increased stress and anxiety. She alleged that her continuing cognitive deficits affected her job performance as a computer analyst in that she was given simple projects from her supervisor, who knew of her problems. The plaintiff’s neuropsychology expert testified that Urwiler was still experiencing sequelae two years post-accident and would eventually require some additional medical treatment. Thus, Urwiler sought recovery of $30,782.97 in past medical costs and $12,500 in past lost earnings as a result of missing several weeks of work. Defense counsel argued that Urwiler fully recovered from her alleged after the accident. The defense’s orthopedics expert testified that Urwiler’s shoulder injury resolved shortly after the collision. The defense’s psychology expert testified that Urwiler’s post-concussive symptoms resolved shortly after the collision. In addition, defense counsel noted that even though Urwiler claimed she was emotionally labile after the accident, which caused the break-up of a promising relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Urwiler’s cousin testified that Urwiler had problems with her relationship with her boyfriend prior to the accident. Defense counsel further noted that while Urwiler claimed that she did not ride a bike anymore, one of Urwiler’s witnesses confirmed that he rode with her and saw her riding the Cinderella 60-mile ride just days before Urwiler went to her neuropsychologist to make the statement that she did not ride.
Superior Court of Alameda County, Oakland, CA

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