Case details

Pedestrian struck in two-vehicle crash claimed ongoing pain





Result type

Not present

bilateral pneumothorax, chest, fractures ribs, head, head trauma, lung contusions, multiple thoracic fractures, spine
On Feb. 28, 2013, plaintiff Jake Newland, 19, a student at Cerritos Community College, was walking on the sidewalk of Norwalk Boulevard, in Norwalk, when he was struck by a Honda Civic operated by Kevin Vargas. Prior to the collision, Donald Prigo, a Los Angeles County public defender, was driving home when he failed to yield to oncoming traffic while attempting to make a left turn into a shopping center. As a result, he collided with Vargas’ vehicle, causing it to leave the roadway and strike Newland, who was walking on a sidewalk. Newland was subsequently struck from behind at approximately 40 miles per hour, forcing him into a brick wall. Newland sustained to his head, chest and spine. Newland sued Prigo; Prigo’s employer, the county of Los Angeles; Vargas; and the owner of Vagas’ vehicle, Martha Paniagua. Newland alleged that Prigo and Vargas were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles. He also alleged that the county was liable for Prigo’s actions and that Paniagua was liable for Vargas’ actions. Paniagua was eventually dismissed before trial. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Prigo was at fault for the accident and that he was in the course and scope of his employment with the county at the time of the crash. Counsel contended that as a public defender for the county, Prigo used his vehicle for work-related outings and that as a result, the county directly or indirectly benefited from Prigo’s use of his personal vehicle. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that under the required vehicle doctrine, an exception to the coming-and-going rule, Prigo’s commute to and from work fell within the course and scope of his employment for the county. Vargas also blamed Prigo for the accident, claiming that Prigo failed to yield to oncoming traffic before making his left turn. Prigo admitted that he was entirely at fault for the accident and that he was driving his vehicle in the course and scope of his employment with the county. The county’s counsel disputed that Prigo was at fault, and argued that Prigo was not in the course and scope of his employment with the county. Counsel argued that Prigo’s use of his personal vehicle was so remote that it did not constitute a direct or indirect benefit to the county. The county’s counsel subsequently brought a motion for summary judgment on the issue of course and scope. However, the motion was denied, and the county’s counsel’s petition for a writ of mandate was also denied by the Court of Appeal. Thus, the first phase of the trial dealt with the county’s vicarious liability for Prigo’s negligence under the required vehicle doctrine. During the second phase of the trial, the county attempted to shift blame for the crash onto Vargas., Newland sustained head trauma and multiple thoracic fractures of, including a right T12 pedicle fracture, a left T11 fracture, bilateral T9 pars fractures, a T8 vertebral body fracture, and a T4 fracture. He also sustained multiple fractures of his ribs, lung contusions, and a bilateral pneumothorax. Newland was subsequently airlifted to Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center, in Los Angeles, where he remained hospitalized for 17 days, including nine days in the Intensive Care Unit. He had chest tubes placed for the pneumothorax, and he underwent pain management. Newland did not require any surgeries. Newland claimed that due to the numerous fractures, he continues to have back pain and will continue to have pain for the rest of his life. He also claimed that he cannot stand or walk for long periods of time without getting fatigued and that the pain and fatigue will only worsen as he ages. In addition, he claimed that he will eventually require an orthopedic follow up and pain management. Thus, Newland sought recovery for his past and future medical costs, future loss of earnings, and past and future pain and suffering. The county’s counsel argued that Newland’s were insignificant and that Newland made a complete recovery.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Long Beach, CA

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