Case details

Plaintiff claimed injuries from collision after lane change




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

chest, fifth distal metacarpal fracture, fracture, loss of short-term memory, loss of strength, numbness, right hand, severe headaches, shoulder
On the morning of May 14, 2013, plaintiff Aida Ruiz, 66, a security officer, left her place of employment, where she had worked the graveyard shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and was driving her PT Cruiser on California State Route 86, in Riverside. Ruiz was traveling in a southern direction in lane number two, the far right lane, in an area of the highway where there were only two lanes of travel in each direction. She eventually moved from behind a large vehicle owned by RPM Consolidated Services and operated by Javier Jara, passed the truck in the number one lane and, later, moved back into the number two lane, the slow lane of travel. Shortly thereafter, Ruiz’s vehicle was rear-ended by Jara’s truck, causing Ruiz’s vehicle to be pushed from lane number two, across lane number one, and into the dirt divider separating the northbound and southbound lanes of travel on Route 86. Jara was ultimately able to bring his truck to a stop on the right-hand shoulder of the roadway and immediately thereafter, other bystanders stopped in order to render aid to Ruiz, who claimed to her right hand, chest, and shoulder. Ruiz sued Jara and RPM Consolidated Services Inc. (which was initially erroneously sued as “RPM Consolidated Services-GL”). Ruiz alleged that Jara was negligent in the operation of his truck and that RPM Consolidated Services was vicariously liable for Jara’s actions while he was under the course and scope of his employment. Ruiz claimed that she moved from the number two lane, into the number one lane, and safely passed Jara, whom she estimated was traveling at approximately 55 mph. She claimed that she then moved from the number one lane, back into the slow lane of travel a short time later. However, Ruiz claimed that Jara failed to keep a proper look out and struck her from behind after she moved back into the lane in front of his truck. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that the incident was investigated by the California Highway Patrol, which took statements from Ruiz, Jara, and other witnesses at the scene and determined that Jara’s negligence was the primary cause of the collision. Jara testified during his deposition that he was driving south on Route 86 in the number two lane when he observed Ruiz’s vehicle pass by him on his left then made a lane change directly in front of his truck. He claimed that as a result, he attempted to bring his vehicle to a safe stop, but was unable to do so. Jara testified that immediately after the incident, he went over to Ruiz’s stopped vehicle in the dirt median, or center divider, saw that Ruiz was still in her vehicle and conscious. He also testified that he noticed that Ruiz’s seat belt was not fastened and he claimed that he remained at Ruiz’s vehicle for approximately 10 minutes until the CHP and various other emergency personnel arrived at the scene. Defense counsel asserted that the incident was caused in part by Ruiz’s negligence. Counsel asserted that Ruiz made an unsafe lane change and, hence, was negligent in the operation of her vehicle at the time of the subject incident. Counsel also noted that Jara was not cited by the CHP for the collision and contended that Ruiz was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the subject incident. In response, plaintiff’s counsel contended that Jara’s testimony was extremely conflicting with regard to time, speed, and distance., Ruiz sustained multiple rib fractures; a concussion; an open fracture of her right, dominant hand; a collapsed lung; and a torn rotator cuff to a shoulder. She was examined by medical personnel at the scene and then airlifted to Desert Regional Medical Center, in Palm Springs, where she underwent surgery to repair her fractured hand. Ruiz then remained hospitalized for several days and then continued to treat her up to the time of mediation. During the course of her medical care and treatment, Ruiz was seen by her treating physician, an orthopedic surgeon in Rancho Mirage. The treater examined Ruiz and pertinent medical records, and diagnosed Ruiz with a cervical spine sprain and strain with a possible internal derangement; a fourth proximal metacarpal fracture of her right hand; a fifth distal metacarpal fracture of her right hand; and status/post-pinning of the metacarpal fracture of the right hand. Ruiz claimed that she continues to have limited range of motion to her shoulder, difficulty with her grip due to her loss of strength and numbness, a loss of short-term memory, and severe headaches. She claimed that after the incident, she began to experience short-term memory loss and that it affects her daily living, as well as her employment and relationship with her husband. She also claimed that her short-term memory loss is ongoing. Ruiz claimed that she incurred $226,806.68 in total medical costs, including $138,905.86 in medical costs at Desert Regional Medical Center, $37,600.25 in medical costs at Reach Air Medical Services, $1,646 in medical costs at Quantum Radiology Services, $118 in medical costs at an orthopedist, $1,042.53 in medical costs at Desert Trauma Surgeons, $2,895 in medical costs at Palm Springs Anesthesia Services, $4,681.60 in medical costs at her treating physician’s office, $4,500 in medical costs at Desert Medical Imaging, $560 in medical costs at Key Health Solutions, $5,200 in medical costs at a chiropractor, $6,958 in medical costs at Elite Physical Therapists, $328.21 in medical costs at CA Emergency Medical Group, $142.50 in medical costs at Superior Med Surgical Inc., $6,000 in medical costs at a neuropsychologist, $13,421.53 in medical costs at El Mirador Surgery Center, $673.50 in medical costs from a family practitioner at Desert Family Medical Center, $1,310.91 in medical costs at another chiropractor, and $500 in medical costs at an orthopedic surgeon. Thus, she sought recovery of past and future medical costs, past loss of earnings, and damages for her past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel strongly disputed the nature and extent of Ruiz’s alleged . Counsel also asserted that if Ruiz was injured in the collision, it was due to her own failure to wear a seat belt.
Superior Court of Riverside County, Indio, CA

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