Case details

Plaintiff: Employer responsible for employee’s reckless driving





Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, concussion, elbow, head, nerve, neurological, right arm
On Aug. 16, 2011, at around 1 a.m., plaintiff Thomas Tran, 22, was a front seat passenger in a 2008 Subaru Impreza operated by Tom Nguyen. Nguyen could only function with his right arm, but still drove against Department of Motor Vehicle’s restrictions and put the vehicle into sport shift mode, which also required Nguyen to shift gears with his right hand. As his vehicle was traveling uphill on westbound Highway 9, a winding road, Nguyen lost control and crashed into a tree on the side of the road. Tran was allegedly knocked unconscious and he claimed he sustained to his right arm. Tran sued the driver, Tom Nguyen; Tom Nguyen’s parents, Chinh Nguyen and Tran Huynh; the owner of the Impreza, Nguyen’s brother, Son Nguyen; and Tom Nguyen’s employers, Devin Hui, Speed Element Performance, and LTC Distribution (doing business as Tran alleged that Tom Nguyen was negligent in the operation of the Impreza by speeding and driving against his DMV restrictions. He also alleged that Tom Nguyen’s parents, brother and employers were negligent in the entrustment of the vehicle to Tom Nguyen, as he had a history of reckless driving. Tom Nguyen, his parents, his brother, Hui, and Speed Element Performance all settled out of the case. Thus, the matter continued against LTC Distribution only on the claim of vicarious liability. Hartford Casualty ultimately joined the matter as a complainant-in-intervention in order to defend LTC Distribution, which was a suspended corporation. Counsel for LTC Distribution argued that Tom Nguyen was not negligent and that Tom Nguyen did not have a history of reckless driving, as he only had one prior accident, but it was determined to be caused by the driver of another car. Counsel also argued that Nguyen was an independent contractor and not an employee of LTC Distribution, and that Nguyen was not acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident., Tran claimed that he was knocked unconscious during the accident and that he suffered a concussion. He also claimed to his right, dominant arm. Tran was subsequently airlifted to Stanford Hospital & Clinics, in Stanford. He was determined to have an open fracture of his right elbow and an avulsion of his right ulnar nerve, about two inches of which was severed from the arm. Tran underwent emergency surgery on his elbow, including fixation of the elbow joint and an ulnar nerve transplant. He also had skin grafts from his thigh transposed to his arm to close the wound. Tran suffered a loss of bone from the right elbow joint. Consequently, he underwent follow-up surgeries, mainly for revision of the original surgery, and multiple sessions of physical therapy, which lasted more than one year. Tran claimed he will have lifelong pain to his right elbow. He also claimed he has restricted movement to the right elbow, hand, and fingers. He is restricted from heavy lifting and has a limited range of movement in the elbow. In addition, he claimed he suffers a loss of sensation through the right forearm and decreased fine hand movements. Tran claimed that his have impacted his daily life, including affecting his ability to wash his hair, brush his teeth, type on a keyboard, use a computer mouse, and use utensils. He further claimed that he does not take any medications and that he anticipates more surgeries in order to improve his hand movement and lack of sensation. However, he admitted that he is continuing with his schooling. Defense counsel disputed Tran’s alleged head injury. Counsel dispute the claim that Tran lost consciousness at the scene and noted that Tran was never diagnosed with a concussion.
Superior Court of Alameda County, Oakland, CA

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