Case details

Plaintiff claimed truck driver’s unsafe lane change caused crash





Result type

Not present

acetabulum, carpal tunnel syndrome, chondromalacia, chondromalacipatella, fracture, hip, knee, knee contusion, wrist
On July 28, 2015, plaintiff Valmore Courtney, 42, a law enforcement officer, was driving in the number one lane (the far left lane) of eastbound Interstate 580, in Livermore. The right, front portion of his vehicle struck the rear end of a water truck operated by Musu Bennett. Courtney’s vehicle spun and flipped. Courtney sustained to his right hand, right hip and right knee. The California Department of Transportation had contracted with DeSilva Gates Construction L.P. to perform a highway-improvement project on the interstate, near the “Altamont Pass,” in Livermore. Mike Boyd Water Trucks was subcontracted to provide water trucking services for the project, and Bennett was hired by Mike Boyd Water Trucks to deliver water to the work zone. The accident occurred while Bennett was diving a large water truck, as part of his job. Courtney sued Caltrans; Bennett; Bennett’s company, MRB California Enterprises Inc.; DeSilva Gates Construction; Mike Boyd Water Trucks; and the operators of Mike Boyd Water Trucks, Robert Boyd and Kathleen Boyd. Courtney alleged that Bennett was negligent in the operation of the truck and that the remaining defendants were vicariously liable for Bennett’s actions while in the course and scope of her employment. Courtney also alleged that Caltrans, DeSilva Gates Construction and Mike Boyd Water Trucks negligently hired and retained Bennett. The defendants filed cross-claims against each other, seeking indemnification. Courtney’s counsel contended Bennett was traveling in the number four lane (the far right lane) when Bennett observed a construction “cone zone” and thought that was where she needed to enter to get to the construction zone. Counsel argued that as a result, Bennett made an unsafe lane change by switching into the number one lane and entering the path of Courtney’s vehicle. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Courtney attempted to avoid the collision by honking his horn and slamming his brakes, but it was too late. Counsel noted that after the collision, it was discovered that Bennett was operating with a suspended California driver’s license. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Caltrans, DeSilva Gates Construction and Mike Boyd Water Trucks were liable as the hirers of Bennett because none of them complied with their duty to hire a properly licensed employee/subcontractor. Counsel also contended that the type of work Bennett performed carried a “peculiar risk,” making the hiring defendants strictly liable for Bennett under the peculiar risk doctrine, and that the hiring defendants were required to prepare and institute a safe traffic control plan, provide specific instructions on how to access (enter or exit) the construction zone, and post proper signage and warnings in and around the entrance of construction zone to advise workers and warn motorists of trucks entering and exiting the highway. Bennett claimed that she looked in her mirrors and did not see cars close to her before she changed lanes. She also claimed that the accident was caused by nothing more than Courtney’s own negligence in the operation of his vehicle. Specifically, Bennett claimed that Courtney was speeding and failed to keep a proper lookout. Defense counsel contended that Courtney was in a better position to perceive the dangers of the accident and to protect himself from harm and that had Courtney been driving the required reduced speed limit for a work zone and keeping a proper lookout, he would have observed the large water truck with flashing emergency hazard lights slowly switching lanes toward the work zone and would have had time to slow or stop in time so that the collision would not have occurred. Counsel for DeSilva Gates Construction asserted that Bennett was an independent contractor who was hired by Mike Boyd Water Trucks and that Bennett was qualified to perform the work that she was hired to complete. Counsel also asserted that DeSilva Gates Construction hired Mike Boyd Water Trucks as an independent contractor and that there was never any relationship between Bennett and DeSilva Gates Construction. Defense counsel contended that the Caltrans project had been ongoing for a long time and that the specific work zone set up by DeSilva Gates Construction was in place for months without any prior incidents. Counsel also contended that Courtney had driven through the work zone on numerous prior occasions and that there was no evidence brought forth that there were any defects, deficiencies or failures in the set up or operation of the work site., Courtney suffered a fractured acetabulum at the right hip/pelvis and a contusion to the right knee with chondromalacia of the right patella. He was taken to a hospital, where he underwent internal fixation of the fractured acetabulum with the insertion of plates and screws. Courtney claimed that he later developed carpel tunnel syndrome to the right wrist and that he continued to suffer from right hip joint pain, which required injection therapy. Courtney missed a few months of work, but eventually went back to working full time as a law enforcement officer. However, he claimed that he will eventually require a total hip replacement that will leave him incapable of continuing his career in law enforcement. Defense counsel disputed Courtney’s alleged need for a hip replacement, and asserted that even if one was required, it would actually improve Courtney’s condition. Counsel also asserted that Courtney would be able to fulfill his work life expectancy in law enforcement.
Superior Court of Alameda County, Hayward, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case