Case details

Motorist struck by drunken driver claimed thoracic fractures





Result type

Not present

back, fracture
At approximately 10:25 p.m., on March 22, 2011, plaintiff Buzz Helsel, 62, a bank vice president, was approaching a red light on southbound on Sepulveda Boulevard, at the intersection with Imperial Highway by the Los Angeles International Airport, when he was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Antwain Hunter. The impact “submarined” Helsel’s vehicle under a sport utility vehicle that was at the intersection, causing him to injure his back. Hunter was arrested and convicted for driving while intoxicated and speeding, in violation of the Vehicle Code. He is currently serving a prison sentence. Helsel sued Hunter and the owner of the vehicle, Chuquietta Wilson, Hunter’s ex-girlfriend. He alleged Hunter was negligent in the operation of the vehicle and that Wilson was vicariously liable for Hunter’s actions. The matter proceeded to a bench trial. Helsel contended that Hunter impacted the back of his vehicle at a high rate of speed, roughly 50 mph, as they approached a red light at the intersection in question. He further contended that Wilson had actual knowledge that Hunter was a bad driver and on probation at the time of the accident. Hunter did not appear at trial, as he was serving his prison sentence. Wilson, appearing pro per at trial, argued limited liability under the permissive use statute. She claimed she was unaware of Hunter’s propensity for drunk driving or that he was on probation when she lent him the subject vehicle., Helsel was taken from the scene of the accident by ambulance and brought to an emergency room. He sustained thoracic fractures at the T2, T3, and T4 levels, requiring him to be hospitalized for 12 days. Helsel subsequently followed up with several months of physical therapy. Helsel claimed that he still experiences pain and discomfort in his back, as well as reduced range of motion. He also claimed that he missed some work during his recovery and that he can no longer play golf due to his condition. Plaintiff’s counsel stated that Helsel’s economic damages were covered. Thus, at trial, Helsel only sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Wilson contended that Helsel’s damages should be reduced to $15,000 under to the permissive use statute.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Central, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case