Case details

Drunken driver caused collision that left plaintiff paralyzed: suit





Result type

Not present

difficult to breathe, frequent bladder, great bodily injury, kidney infections, spinal cord injury
On March 23, 2013, plaintiff Francisco Briones, 21, a warehouse worker, was driving on Channel Islands Boulevard, in Oxnard, on his way to working a 5 a.m. shift. As he reached the intersection with Rice Avenue, a vehicle traveling in front of him safely made a left-hand turn on a green light. However, when Briones was in the process of turning left onto Rice Avenue, he was struck by a vehicle driven by Christopher Zink, who was driving approximately 50 mph on Rice Avenue and had entered the intersection on a red light. Zink’s blood alcohol level was found to be 0.14 percent after the crash. He also admitted that he had not slept in 24 hours and had fallen asleep at the wheel. As a result of the collision, Briones was rendered a quadriplegic. Zink was prosecuted criminally. He pleaded guilty to violating Vehicle Code § 23153(a), driving while under the influence of alcohol and causing bodily injury, and was found guilty of violating Penal Code § 12022.7(b), inflicting great bodily injury in the commission of a felony. Zink is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence. Briones brought a civil suit against Zink, alleging that Zink’s negligence and drunk, fatigued driving caused the crash and his subsequent . Defense counsel argued that Briones was partly to blame for the crash, asserting that Briones should have known that Zink would not stop for the red light and that Briones should have made evasive maneuvers., The collision caused a laceration to Briones’ head and a rupture of his C4-5 vertebrae, severing his spine and immediately paralyzing him from the neck down. The spinal cord injury subsequently caused Briones’ head to drop forward, blocking his windpipe and making it difficult to breathe. As a result, a Good Samaritan who had witnessed the crash, ran to Briones’ vehicle and held his head up so that Briones could breathe until paramedics arrived. Briones was then transported to Ventura County Medical Center, in Ventura, where he underwent emergency surgery to stabilize his spine. Over the course of the next 90-plus days, Briones underwent several more stabilization surgeries and was then transferred to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, in Downey, for over three months of rehabilitation. After discharge from Rancho Los Amigos, Briones returned home, where his mother and four younger siblings have cared for him 24 hours a day. Briones claimed that his have left him unable to move, except for his head and neck, and very limited movement of his left forearm. He also claimed he suffers from autonomic dysreflexia (a condition in which one’s involuntary nervous system overreacts to external or bodily stimuli); uncontrollable spasms that cause dangerous changes in blood pressure; and frequent bladder and kidney infections. Prior to the collision, Briones was an award-winning athlete, playing baseball, football, and soccer. After high school, he attended classes at Oxnard College, but left school to go to work and support his mother, brothers, and sister. He claimed that he had enjoyed volunteering as a coach for his younger siblings’ sports teams and had been coaching his younger brother’s Little League team for several years. On the day of the crash, he was scheduled to leave work early to take the family to Little League opening ceremonies. Briones, now 24 years old, claimed that since the crash, he and his family have struggled to survive financially. He noted that during trial, his family was even evicted from their Oxnard home and had to reside in a hotel paid for by their counsel. Thus, Briones sought recovery for his past and future medical expenses, which included 24-hour care; past and future loss of earnings; and past and future pain and suffering. (The parties ultimately stipulated to Briones’ past medical damages.)
Superior Court of Ventura County, Ventura, CA

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