Case details

Motorcyclist struck paper roll on road, causing traumatic injuries





Result type

Not present

anxiety, back, brachial plexus, brain, brain injury, chest, depression, fracture, hand, knee, left arm, leg, mental, nerve damage, neurological, neuropathy, patella, psychological, reflex sympathetic, rib, scapula, shoulder, tibial plateau, traumatic brain injury, wrist
On Dec. 6, 2011, plaintiff Sergio Jolon, 47, a parking enforcement officer, was riding his motorcycle on southbound Interstate 5 in Los Angeles, on his way to work at the San Gabriel Police Department. At approximately 5:25 a.m., while negotiating a curve on the connecting ramp to Interstate 10, Jolon allegedly encountered a massive 5-foot x 8-foot roll of paper, which weighed more than three tons and was partially obstructing his lane of travel. The force of the crash catapulted the helmeted Jolon into the air and across two lanes of travel before he plummeted to the ground. He claimed multiple fractures throughout his body, a traumatic brain injury, and permanent nerve damage to his left arm, hand and leg. Jolon claimed his left side struck the paper roll with such force that a piece of bone fragment from his left leg became embedded in the paper roll. Jolon sued Wildwood Express Inc.; Harold Augustine; and Van-G Trucking Inc., which was doing business as Van-G Logistics Inc. and Van-G Leasing Inc. Wildwood Express and Van-G trucking subsequently brought cross-complaints against each other. Wildwood Express also brought a third-party claim against the State of California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Jolon later amended his complaint to add Caltrans as a direct defendant. Jolon claimed that because he was going around a curve in a dark and unlit area, he was unable to see the paper roll or react in sufficient time to avoid the unanticipated and unusual obstruction. Jolon’s counsel contended that the paper roll was one of three rolls that had fallen onto the dark highway from an overturned trailer approximately 10 minutes prior to the incident. Counsel asserted that the paper rolls had been negligently loaded and secured onto the trailer by Van-G Trucking and that the trailer and load were, thereafter, negligently strapped to the tractor by Wildwood Express. Counsel further contended that the tractor-trailer was negligently operated on the night of the incident by Harold Augustine, a driver for Wildwood Express. In addition, Jolon’s counsel asserted that, at the time of the incident, the roadway in question had been the subject of at least seven Table C Investigations by Caltrans from 2001 to 2011 because the roadway’s accident rates were higher than the statewide average. The plaintiffs’ engineering, biomechanics, road/highway, trucking industry and motorcycle experts allegedly would have testified that several factors caused the roadway to be a dangerous condition. They opined that vegetation and a dirt mount obstructed the line of sight around the curve, resulting in a deficient stopping sight distance. They also opined the three streetlight poles around the curve were down and not operating at the time of the incident. They further opined that there was a substandard compound curvature as a result of negligently re-painted center lines. In addition, the plaintiffs’ experts opined that there was insufficient signage at night and that there was improper placement of advisory signs and Moskowitz signs (truck tipping advisory speed signs). The plaintiffs’ experts would have allegedly testified that under the conditions that existed on the roadway at the time of the incident, there was insufficient time for Jolon to perceive, react and avoid the paper roll. They also agreed that with the streetlights on and the vegetation removed, Jolon would have had plenty of time to see and avoid the paper roll. Defense counsel contended that the subject paper roll was almost entirely on the shoulder with only 1 foot to 1.5 feet protruding into Jolon’s lane of travel. Counsel also contended that had Jolon been riding in the center of the lane, instead of hugging the side on his motorcycle, he would have had enough time and space to avoid the paper roll and prevent the accident. Caltrans’ experts claimed that the roadway was reasonably safe for vehicles and operators. It emphasized that nearly 40,000 vehicles used the roadway daily and that over 137 million vehicles had used the roadway in the last 10 years. Both Caltrans and Jolon claimed that the Wildwood Express’ flatbed trailer was improperly loaded and secured, causing the load to shift at a certain speed, causing the large paper rolls to fall out onto the roadway. Moreover, Caltrans claimed that Augustine had a duty to set out reflective triangles or flares — which Augustine was supposed to carry — to warn drivers such as Jolon of the presence of the dangerous paper rolls. Caltrans alleged that Augustine’s failure to do so prevented Jolon from either striking the paper roll at a lower speed or avoiding the accident entirely., Jolon was taken by ambulance to an emergency room, where he underwent numerous surgeries for multiple fractures throughout his body. The fractures to the left leg included a comminuted distal femur fracture, and fractures of the femoral shaft, patella, tibial plateau and shaft, and fibula. Jolon also suffered fractures of his left wrist, right thumb, left ribs two through eight, transverse vertebra at L3, spinal process at T7, and left glenoid/scapula (shoulder blade). In addition, he suffered a brain contusion and a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury from the accident, as well as abdominal trauma with internal bleeding and a left, upper extremity brachial plexus injury. Jolon was subsequently kept on a respirator until Dec. 17, 2011, and remained in the hospital for a full month. After his discharge, he returned to the hospital for two additional surgeries. Jolon remained restricted to a wheelchair for more than a year. He claimed his left knee remains frozen in an extended position and he is required to wear a permanent foot and ankle brace. In April 2014, Jolon was admitted to Centre for Neuro Skills (CNS) in Bakersfield for evaluation and treatment, where he remained for several weeks. Jolon claimed he is unable to return to work due to his condition. He also claimed he deals with an ongoing mood disorder, and with depression, anxiety and an adjustment disorder. Jolon further claimed he suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy or causalgia, a chronic pain condition, and suffers permanent nerve damage to his left arm, hand and leg. Jolon claimed he previously enjoyed running and had trained with his daughters to run the Los Angeles Marathon. He alleged that because of his , he can no longer run, and cannot walk or stand for long periods of time. (His daughters completed the year’s marathon without him and dedicated it to him.) The plaintiffs’ medical experts opined that Jolon will require future surgeries, rehabilitation, therapy and medication. Thus, Jolon sought recovery of $292,515 in stipulated past medical costs, $74,003 to $148,331 in past lost earnings, $4,757,079 in future medical costs, $426,033 in future lost earnings, and several millions of dollars for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that Jolon made a significant recovery from his and that, based on evidence accumulated and current medical science, Jolon would not require any future surgery or in-facility treatment.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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