Case details

Other driver, not roadway’s condition, caused crash: defense





Result type

Not present

brain, brain damage, traumatic brain injury
On Oct. 11, 2011, plaintiff Peter Fuller, 61, a horse trainer and owner of Willow Brook Farms in Pennsylvania, was operating a rented vehicle on State Route 1, in San Luis Obispo County, when he was struck head on by a vehicle driven by Jeffrey LaChance, who was traveling in the opposite direction. LaChance had crossed the center line in an attempt to pass a tour bus and collided with Fuller’s vehicle. Fuller sustained a traumatic brain injury and his wife, who was a passenger in his car, was killed. Fuller, acting through his guardian ad litem, Jeff Radding, sued the State of California, Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on ground that the subject section of roadway constituted a dangerous condition under Government Code § 835. Fuller’s wife’s estate was not named as a plaintiff, and LaChance was not named as a defendant in the civil suit. At trial, the plaintiff’s liability experts testified about how they examined the roadway’s passing sight distance (PSD), which is the minimum sight distance that is required on a highway — generally a two-lane, two-directional road — that will allow a driver to pass another vehicle without colliding with a vehicle in the opposing lane. They opined that the PSD standards were not met and that due to the horizontal and vertical curvature of the roadway, which hid oncoming vehicles, passing should not have been allowed in that section of the roadway. Defense counsel denied the subject section of the roadway constituted a dangerous condition. Counsel contended that the state had performed a full property survey and determined that the Manuel on Uniformed Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) statewide standards were met for sight distance. Counsel also argued that LaChance was solely to blame for the crash, as California Highway Patrol had found that LaChance had accelerated to approximately 79 mph while trying to overtake the tour bus. The defense’s liability experts opined that LaChance was 100 percent at fault for the subject accident., Fuller sustained a traumatic brain injury and was subsequently taken by ambulance to a local emergency room. He remained in the hospital’s intensive care unit for 10 days and then underwent six months of rehabilitation. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Fuller now requires 24-hour caregiver assistance and that Fuller has been unable to work since the accident. The plaintiff’s expert neurologist opined that Fuller sustained a severe and permanent brain injury. Thus, Fuller’s counsel suggested that the jury award Fuller $10.5 million in economic damages for his past and future medical costs, and past and future loss of earning capacity. Counsel also suggested that the jury award between $1,000 and $10,000 per day in non-economic damages for Fuller’s past and future pain and suffering, based on the plaintiff’s expert economist’s calculations. Defense counsel did not dispute the extent of Fuller’s or the amount of Fuller’s alleged past medical costs, which totaled $2.4 million. However, the defense’s vocational rehabilitation and economic experts disputed Fuller’s future life expectancy and the amount of Fuller’s lost earnings, which were calculated based upon different potential retirement scenarios.
Superior Court of San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case