Case details

Intoxicated pedestrian claimed speeding driver caused accident





Result type

Not present

ankle, fracture, leg
At 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2013, plaintiff Pedro Aguilar, 26, a field worker, was jaywalking across Brown Street, a rural highway also known as State Route 41, in Kettleman City, when he was struck by a sport utility vehicle operated by Harry Southward. Aguilar had been drinking alcohol prior to the impact and did not see the SUV until it was too late to avoid the accident. He subsequently sustained to his left knee and left ankle. Aguilar sued Southward, alleging that Southward was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Plaintiff’s counsel admitted that Aguilar had been drinking alcohol on the night of the accident and that Aguilar was jaywalking, but contended that Southward was speeding. Thus, counsel argued that the accident could have been avoided if Southward was traveling the speed limit. Plaintiff’s counsel disputed Southward’s allegations regarding the accident, noting that, prior to trial, Southward claimed he was about four to five car lengths away from the point of impact when he first saw Aguilar, but that at trial, Southward contended he was even further away, 165 feet from the point of impact, when he first saw Aguilar. Counsel also noted that although Southward testified that at time of the accident, it was dark out, affecting his ability to perceive Aguilar in the roadway and react in time to avoid the impact, whereas Aguilar testified it was getting dark, but was not completely dark yet. An independent witness also testified that it was not completely dark out. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert opined that, as Southward roughly estimated that he had reduced his speed to 30 mph when he first began to swerve to avoid the impact, Southward had to have been traveling 54 mph at the time his brakes locked up, which would confirm that Southward was speeding in a 45-mph zone when he first saw Aguilar. Defense counsel argued that Aguilar was to blame for the accident, as he was under the influence of alcohol as he stepped into the roadway when it was unsafe to do so outside of a crosswalk. Per the defense’s toxicology expert, Aguilar’s blood alcohol content was between 0.11 and 0.13 percent at the time of the accident. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert testified that using a coefficient of friction of 0.75, Southward’s reaction time would have been three-fourths of a second to apply the brakes and that the braking lag-time was 0.4 seconds. The expert also opined that Southward’s visibility was further diminished because Aguilar crossed between two intersections, outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk, and because the street lamp at the intersection north of the accident was out and Aguilar was dressed in black clothing. The defense’s accident reconstruction and human factors experts further opined that Southward was traveling between 45 and 50 mph in a 45 mph zone and that given the nighttime-limited visibility at four to five car lengths, traveling at 45 mph, Southward did not have time to stop and avoid the accident. In response, the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert opined that at the distance Southward testified to at trial, 165 feet, Southward still would have had plenty of time to stop, had he been traveling the speed limit of 45 mph, even using the defense’s accident reconstruction expert’s calculations of the coefficient of friction of 0.75, three-fourths of second reaction time, and 0.4 second lag time., Aguilar sustained complex fractures of the left, proximal tibia and a medial malleolus fracture of the left ankle. He was subsequently transported via ambulance to Adventist Medical Center – Hanford, where he underwent surgery on his left knee and ankle nine days after the accident. Specifically, Aguilar’s treating orthopedic surgery expert performed an open reduction and internal fixation procedure on both the left ankle and left knee, during which Aguilar required a repair of the articular surface, a repair of the ligaments and tendons around the left knee, and a repair of the medial malleolus fracture. Following the surgery, Aguilar was bedridden for four months and he underwent four months of physical therapy. Aguilar claimed that prior to the incident, he enjoyed hobbies such as playing soccer, playing basketball, and running. However, he claimed that after the accident, he will no longer be able to run, jump, or engage in meaningful sports activities, so he will never be able to enjoy them again. Aguilar also claimed that he will no longer able to work in the agriculture fields, as he had prior to the incident. He further claimed that although he had just received the news that he had been hired at a fast food restaurant on the day of the incident, prior to the accident, he was unable to accept the position due to his . However, as of the trial, Aguilar had finished a culinary program through the community college. Aguilar claimed that he will eventually need a left knee replacement in 20 to 30 years. Thus, Aguilar sought recovery of past medical costs and future medical costs for the anticipated knee replacement. He also sought recovery of noneconomic damages for his past and future pain and suffering.
Superior Court of Kings County, Hanford, CA

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