Case details

Plaintiff: Unsafe lane change caused multiple vehicle crash





Result type

Not present

bilateral tibia, face, fibul, fracture, left orbital wall, legs, nasal bone
At around 10 p.m. on June 8, 2010, plaintiff Ruben Minjarez, 36, a marine diver, was driving in the far right lane, heading north, on the San Diego Freeway, also known as Interstate 405, in Long Beach. Minjarez was coming from a sports bar in Huntington Beach, where he drank alcohol. As he was near the Pacific Avenue on-ramp, a tractor-trailer driven by Jerry Abasta made a lane change from the number three to the number four (far right) lane, striking the rear, driver’s side of Minjarez’s vehicle. As a result, Minjarez’s vehicle spun across all of the northbound lanes, struck the center divider, and came to rest perpendicular to the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. Shortly thereafter, Minjarez’s vehicle was struck by a white 2007 Mercedes-Benz, which was driven by Marshall Golden, causing Minjarez’s vehicle to rotate again and come to rest between the HOV lane and the number one (far left) lane. After the second collision, Minjarez attempted to start his vehicle, but to no avail. When he saw headlights coming his way, he exited his vehicle, but was struck by a GMC Yukon driven by Robert Guss. As a result, Minjarez was catapulted into the southbound lanes. He sustained multiple to his face and legs. Minjarez sued Guss; Golden; the owner of Golden’s vehicle, Ramona Cox; Abasta; and Abasta’s employer and owner of the tractor-trailer, LLC. Minjarez alleged that Gus, Golden and Abasta were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles. He also alleged that Cox was vicariously liable for Golden’s actions and that was liable for Abasta’s actions while in the course and scope of his work for the company. Guss, Abasta and subsequently brought cross-claims against Golden and Cox. Golden and Cox were ultimately dismissed from the case for a waiver of costs. Thus, the matter continued against Guss, Abasta and Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Abasta was traveling at an unsafe speed for the traffic conditions, as a multi-vehicle collision had already occurred with Golden’s vehicle stopped in the number three lane ahead and several vehicles slowing or stopping to assist on the shoulder. Thus, counsel argued that Abasta failed to exercise reasonable care. Plaintiff’s counsel also argued that Guss was tailgating, and failed to apply the brakes or execute any precautionary swerving maneuver, which caused Minjarez’s vehicle to be crushed under Guss’ vehicle. Medical records showed that Minjarez’s blood alcohol content was a 0.13. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Minjarez’s alcohol consumption did not contribute to his harm. The defense’s human factors expert also agreed that if Abasta’s truck came into contact with Minjarez’s vehicle, nothing Minjarez could have done would have prevented the accident. denied liability for employee Abasta’s negligence, claiming that the tractor-trailer driven by Abasta did not make contact with Minjarez’s vehicle. Counsel for argued that Minjarez, alone, was negligent for driving while under the influence of alcohol and that Minjarez made an unsafe lane change, which caused Minjarez’s vehicle to move from the far right lane of traffic and collide with the center divider, leading to Minjarez’s subsequent . Guss also denied liability, claiming that Minjarez, alone, was negligent for driving while under the influence of alcohol. Guss’ main contention was that he acted reasonably under the circumstances and that he was unable to avoid colliding with Minjarez’s vehicle after it had come to rest between the HOV lane and the number one lane., Minjarez sustained bilateral tibia and fibula fractures and multiple facial and head , including a fracture of the left orbital wall, a fracture of the nasal bone, and a facial degloving injury. He was subsequently transported to Long Beach Memorial Hospital Center, in Long Beach, where he underwent open reduction and internal fixation to treat the tibia and fibula fractures. He also underwent several surgeries within days of the accident to correct the to his face and head while still a patient at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. Minjarez then underwent a subsequent open reduction and internal fixation at South Bay Medical Center, a Kaiser Permanente facility in Harbor City. However, the fracture to the left tibia did not properly heal and caused pain. As a result, Minjarez required a subsequent rodding surgery on his left leg. Minjarez claimed that as he healed and learned to walk again, he was unable to work for approximately one year. He also claimed that he is limited to walking, with no running or jumping, and that he suffers from chronic leg and back pain. Thus, Minjarez sought recovery of $125,438.90 in past medical costs (which was stipulated to by the defense) and $65,000 in past lost earnings. He also sought recovery of non-economic damages for his past and future pain, mental suffering, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, grief, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys, CA

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