Case details

Drunken driver to blame for fiery crash, passenger alleged





Result type

Not present

acetabulum, ankle, anosmia, blindness, brain, brain damage, brain injury, chest, cognition, coma, contusion, face, facial bone, fracture, frontal lobe, head, hip, impairment, jaw, mental, mental impairment, nose, one eye, psychological, rib, sensory, speech, subdural hematoma, tinnitus, traumatic brain injury, vision
On June 3, 2014, plaintiff Michael Isom, 28, an electrical worker, was a passenger in a pickup truck that was operated by his co-worker, Brandon MacCarthy. Isom had been staying at MacCarthy’s home, in Palmdale, for a few days. During that time, he was driven to and from work by MacCarthy. After they had finished work on the subject date, Isom and MacCarthy consumed alcohol, and then they continued drinking intermittently throughout the night. Isom eventually got into a pickup truck that was being operated by MacCarthy, who ran through a stop sign at the end of Hampel Avenue, a short two-lane road that ended at a T-intersection with 116th Street East, in Pearblossom. The vehicle went through a dirt patch, continued through a cyclone fence and into a concrete side of the California Aqueduct, which is formed by rocks. The truck flew through the air and hit a rock wall, where it came to rest. Isom and MacCarthy were rendered unconscious, but MacCarthy awoke to find the pickup truck on fire. MacCarthy and a nearby security guard pulled Isom out of the truck before it was completely enveloped by the fire. MacCarthy’s blood alcohol content was determined to be 0.26 at the scene, and a blood test later determined it to be 0.22. Isom’s blood alcohol level was 0.19. MacCarthy pleaded no contest to driving under the influence of alcohol, in violation of Penal Code § 23153(b), and he served 47 days in jail on a sentence of 180 days with six years of prison suspended for probation. MacCarthy also paid $3,000 in restitution was on probation for five years. Isom had sustained to his head, face, chest, hip, shoulder and foot as a result of the accident. Isom sued MacCarthy and the owner of the pickup truck, Mark MacCarthy. Isom alleged that Brandon MacCarthy was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Mark MacCarthy was vicariously liable for Brandon MacCarthy’s actions. Mark MacCarthy was dismissed from the case, and the matter proceeded against Brandon MacCarthy only. Isom has no recollection of the entire day of the accident. However, he claimed that he would not have gotten into the vehicle if he thought that Brandon MacCarthy was too intoxicated to drive. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that MacCarthy was negligent per se for driving while under the influence of alcohol, in violation of Penal Code § 23153(b), and crashing his truck after failing to stop at the T-intersection. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that MacCarthy originally claimed he was traveling 65 mph in a 55 mph zone when he ran through the stop sign. Counsel also contended that MacCarthy told the California Highway Patrol officer that he almost killed his buddy and that he thought he was OK to drive. However, plaintiff’s counsel contended that MacCarthy later claimed that he could not recall anything from that evening after he started drinking after he and Isom finished work. A bartender that served MacCarthy and Isom on the night of the incident, and who knew MacCarthy because MacCarthy had been going to the establishment nearly every day since it had opened several weeks before the incident, claimed that he thought MacCarthy was OK and that he believed that MacCarthy had not been overserved. He also claimed that he had seen MacCarthy way worse in the past. However, plaintiff’s counsel contended that MacCarthy continued drinking, intermittently, after leaving the establishment that night. Defense counsel contended that Isom was responsible for his own by assuming the risk, as Isom knew that MacCarthy was intoxicated, but got into the truck anyway., Isom sustained a severe traumatic brain injury with a frontal lobe contusion and a subdural hematoma, and he was rendered unconscious in the accident. He also sustained facial bone fractures, a fractured jaw, 12 fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, a fractured acetabulum, a fractured talus in his right foot, a lacerated spleen, and bilateral shoulder . Isom was taken to a hospital, where he remained in a coma for three weeks and hospitalized for two months. His facial bone fractures ultimately required reconstruction with metal implants, while his mouth was wired shut for months because of the jaw fracture. He also had to have seven screws implanted to fuse the talus fracture. Due to his spleen laceration, Isom suffered the loss of his spleen and due to an intestinal injury, he required the removal of a portion of his bowels. Isom claimed that due to his TBI, he is left with cognition and memory impairments, as well as the complete loss of smell and taste (anosmia). He also claimed he lost all sight in his left eye and has damaged sight in his right eye. In addition, he claimed he suffers from ongoing tinnitus. Isom was living at a rehabilitation facility for over eight months while undergoing physical, occupational, speech and aquatic therapies, which included learning how to walk and talk again. As a result, he did not work for 26 months and was deemed 100 percent disabled by the Social Security Administration. However, Isom ultimately gave up disability income to return to work, but he claimed he suffers extreme pain on a daily basis as a result of his work. Isom sought recovery of $136,000 in past lost earnings, $1,245,000 in future loss of earnings, and an unspecified amount in past and future medical costs. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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