Case details

Passenger: Driver lost control by pushing too hard on gas





Result type

Not present

On Dec. 28, 2008, plaintiff Kenneth Gonsalves, 53, a car salesman for BMW, was a back seat passenger in a BMW M3 convertible, which was being test driven by Ran Li while Ran Li’s father, Xiaoming Li, was a front seat passenger. As Ran Li was turning onto a freeway on-ramp of State Route 242 in Concord, he lost control of the vehicle, causing it to spin into a guardrail. Gonsalves claimed to his neck. Gonsalves sued Ran Li for motor vehicle negligence and Xiaoming Li for negligent supervision. Xiaoming Li was later dismissed from the case. Gonsalves claimed Ran Li negligently accelerated into the turn at an unsafe speed, thereby losing control of the vehicle. Ran Li denied liability, claiming that he lost control of the vehicle when Gonsalves told him to hit the “M” button, which enables the driver to program a host of functions to suit his or her individual preferences and call up those functions at the touch of a button. One of those functions was the ability to adjust the engine’s response and characteristics to make it sportier. According to plaintiff’s counsel, Ran Li told the California Highway Patrol Officer that Gonsalves had told him to hit the “M” button, which caused him to lose control of the vehicle. The CHP officer noted the claim in the traffic collision report, which defense counsel used as a basis to deny liability for the claim. However, plaintiff’s counsel noted that the defense’s accident reconstruction expert admitted that the tires spun and Ran Li lost control of the vehicle because Ran Li pushed too hard on the gas., Gonsalves went home after the accident and tried to treat his with ice and rest. He then began treating at the BMW dealership’s industrial medical clinic the following day. After months of physical therapy and medication, an MRI was ordered, which revealed cervical disc bulges at C5-6 and C6-7 levels. Gonsalves then attempted to treat his with three epidural injections and a medial branch block. Thereafter, on Dec. 27, 2012, he underwent a single level disc replacement surgery with his treating physician. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that workers’ compensation delayed the surgery by nearly two years and then only authorized a fusion. As a result, Gonsalves finally went out of workers’ compensation and underwent the single level disc replacement surgery in Walnut Creek 4.5 years after the crash. Gonsalves claimed that he was the sole breadwinner for his family, consisting of his wife and two daughters. Thus, he only missed two weeks of work following the surgery. Gonsalves’ wife, Lucy Gonsalves, initially sought recovery for loss of consortium, but later dismissed her claim. Defense counsel contended that Mr. Gonsalves’ surgery was not related to the crash on Dec. 28, 2008. The defense’s radiology expert testified that all of Mr. Gonsalves’ findings on the MRI were degenerative and that there was no evidence of trauma to the cervical spine. The defense’s neurosurgery expert testified that the findings from Mr. Gonsalves’ treating surgeon, which noted a bone spur during the surgery, evidenced that Mr. Gonsalves’ problems were degenerative and due to a pre-existing bone spur.
Superior Court of Contra Costa County, Contra Costa, CA

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