Case details

Plaintiff: Defendant liable for injury under rescue doctrine





Result type

Not present

ankle, fracture, leg, limp, trimalleolar fracture
On Sept. 4, 2009, plaintiff Steven Carroll, 47, a realtor, was returning to his truck from the stable where he boards his horse on River Road in Salinas when he heard Gina Figuerres screaming for help. Figuerres had pulled her car over on River Road and was hysterical because she had accidentally lodged her dog’s head in the rear passenger window of the vehicle and the dog was choking. Carroll had seconds to react. He tried to power the window down, but it would not budge. He then looked around, but there was nothing with which to break the window. Therefore, in the heat of the moment, Carroll pulled on the window with both hands, causing the window to break. The dog was saved, but the force used to pull the window free caused Carroll to fall and fracture his ankle in three places. After the incident, Figuerres wrote Carroll a note thanking him as her hero, saying she was sorry that her negligence caused his injury, and that but for Carroll’s help, she knows she would have injured herself or someone else had she driven off. Carroll sued Figuerres pursuant to Civil Code § 1714 and the rescue doctrine. Figuerres’ counsel filed a demurrer, arguing that the rescue doctrine did not apply in this situation. However, the court overruled the demurrer. The demurrer was then tried at the trial court level, but it was again denied. Plaintiff’s counsel asserted that Figuerres had accidentally hit the child-proof locks on her vehicle, leading Carroll to believe the window was stuck. Counsel also asserted that with the dog near death, Figuerres implored Carroll to break the window to free her dog. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that Figuerres indicated that if Carroll did not help her, she would drive elsewhere for help. Counsel contended that as a result, Carroll feared for Figuerres’ safety, since she was in no state of mind to drive, and he feared the dog only had seconds to live. Defense counsel contended the rescue doctrine did not apply to the rescue of an animal. Counsel also contended that Carroll was somehow comparatively negligent., Carroll claimed he was in great pain immediately after he fell. An ambulance subsequently arrived at the scene and transported him to a hospital, where it was determined that Carroll had sustained a trimalleolar fracture of his right ankle. Approximately one week after the accident, he underwent open reduction and internal fixation surgery with insertion of a metal plate and screws. About three months later, Carroll had the screws removed. Carroll claimed he has permanent pain and difficulty walking, which limits the activities he can perform. He alleged that he worked as real estate-owned realtor for 13 months before the accident and was constantly on his feet performing many physical activities associated with his position. His duties included visiting the properties on numerous occasions, where he would perform many tasks that would get the properties ready for sale. However, Carroll claimed that due to the swelling and pain in his ankle, he was unable to do his work for 14 months. Carroll alleged that when he attempted to return to work on crutches, and again when he showed up limping with a severely swollen ankle, his supervisor sent him back home to recuperate because she felt he was not physically capable of performing the job and would be a liability if he fell on the job. Thus, Carroll claimed he should be awarded his gross average wage for 13 months multiplied by 14 months. In addition, Carroll testified about residual pain and his inability to perform in several athletic activities such as running, bowling, skiing, and playing football with his two teenage sons. In addition, Carroll alleged that he still has pain and discomfort in his right ankle. He claimed that the pain will be permanent and that he will eventually require an ankle fusion surgery. Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Carroll $422,000 in total damages, including over $61,252 in past medical costs, $18,245 in future medical costs and $124,000 in past lost wages. Prior to trial, the parties stipulated that because of the previous medical payments made, any verdict would be reduced by $5,000.
Superior Court of Monterey County, Monterey, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case