Case details

Failure to repair excessive drop-off caused crash: plaintiff





Result type

Not present

ankle, brain, brain damage, brain injury, chest, fracture, fusion, knee, leg, rib, shortened head, shoulder, subarachnoid hemorrhage, tibial plateau, traumatic brain injury
On April 14, 2016, plaintiff James Collins, 63, a glassmaker and installer, was driving on State Route 118, in an agricultural section of Ventura County. His vehicle was struck head-on, at an 80-mph impact velocity, by a vehicle operated by Alex Barragan, who had crossed the center line and entered Collins’ lane of travel. Collins sustained of his head, his chest, a shoulder, both ankles and his right foot. Barragan claimed that he had encountered an edge drop-off that was approximately 3.5 inches at the transition between the roadway and the shoulder. He claimed that the drop-off caused him to lose control of his vehicle, cross the center line and travel into the opposite lane of travel, where the collision occurred. Collins sued Barragan; the owners of Barragan’s vehicle, Brenda Barragan and Jose Barragan; and the believed maintainers of the roadway, the city of Thousand Oaks, Ventura County and the people of the state of California acting by and through the Department of Transportation. Collins alleged that Alex Barragan was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Brenda Barragan and Jose Barragan were vicariously liable for Alex Barragan’s actions. Collins also alleged that the city, county and Caltrans failed to properly repair and/or maintain the roadway, creating a dangerous condition of public property. The parties agreed that Collins was not at fault. Several defendants were let out of the case, and the matter only continued against Alex Barragan and Caltrans. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Caltrans failed to properly maintain the roadway edge, creating a dangerous condition and that Caltrans failed to follow its own guidelines regarding shoulder backing and lateral support to the edge drop-off from pavement to shoulder. Counsel argued that the pavement edge drop-off in the area of the collision measured approximately 3.5 inches to 4 inches despite Caltrans’s own maintenance standards that required drop-offs to be repaired if they exceed 2 inches. Plaintiff’s counsel also contended that for nearly a half a century, Caltrans knew that drivers would go off-road for a host of reasons and that if the drop was greater than 2 inches, it might adversely affect the vehicles’ ability to safely return to the roadway. Barragan claimed that he faced a sudden emergency when he perceived an 18-wheeler coming into his lane. He claimed that, as a result, he was forced to maneuver right, off the roadway and onto the shoulder. However, Barragan claimed that due to the unmaintained edge drop from the roadway to the shoulder, his vehicle fishtailed back into the opposite lane of traffic. Caltrans’ counsel argued that Barragan was negligent and the sole cause of the accident., Collins sustained a subarachnoid hemorrhage and brain contusions, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. He also sustained a clavicle fracture, fractures of ribs, a cardiac contusion and an aggravation of an atrial fibrillation condition. In addition, he sustained a fracture of his left knee’s tibial plateau, a fracture of the right ankle’s talus bone and an open dislocation of the tarsal joint of the right foot. Collins was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he stayed for 33 days. He ultimately underwent nine surgeries. Collins claimed he suffered a leg-length discrepancy of nearly 2 inches to his right leg due to the fracture and subsequent osteonecrosis of the talus bone, which required its removal and fusion of the ankle. Collins claimed that he will require additional medical care, including pain management, orthopedic and psychological follow-up care, and periodic follow-up diagnostic studies. He also claimed that he will require various items of durable medical equipment, an additional surgery to the right ankle and a home health attendant for four hours a day. Collins claimed that his prevented him from returning to work as a glassmaker and installer at his business, resulting in a loss of earnings. He further claimed that since he could no longer operate and run his own business, he was forced into retirement and will result in a future loss of earnings. Collins sought recovery of past and future medical costs, damages for future loss of earning capacity, and damages for past and future pain and suffering. His wife, Beverly Collins, presented a loss of consortium claim. Caltrans’ counsel argued that Mr. Collins made a good recovery from his and required less future care than what was alleged by Collins’ doctors and future-care-plan experts.
Superior Court of Ventura County, Ventura, CA

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