Case details

Plaintiffs: Drivers’ unsafe speed and distance caused crashes





Result type

Not present

back, cervical, cervical chest, disfigurement, fracture, knee, leg, lumbar, lumbar head, neck, scar, sprain, strain
On New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2012, plaintiffs Caric Chow, 20, a college student, and Yu Liao “Sherman” Peng, 20, a college student, had gone to visit their high school friend, Saerom Park, 21, a college student at the University of California, Berkeley. Chow and Peng agreed to give Park a ride back to San Francisco on their way home. Park planned to attend a New Year’s Eve mass at Geneva Methodist Church in San Francisco, while Chow and Peng intended to proceed home for the evening. As they approached the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza, proceeding toward San Francisco in the number four lane of westbound Interstate 580, the traffic ahead of them began to slow. Chow responded appropriately by bringing her vehicle to a stop safely behind the vehicle in front of hers. However, Erik Beteran, who was operating a vehicle directly behind Chow, was unable to stop in time and collided with the rear of Chow’s vehicle when the vehicles were just east of the gore point where Interstate 580 meets Interstate 80, before the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza. The parties attempted to move their vehicles as far to the right into the gore point as possible, turned on their hazard lights and exited their respective vehicles. They then stood between their vehicles while they exchanged insurance and identifying information. At the same time, traffic slowed behind and around them while several vehicles safely moved around the traffic incident. However, Michael Bitanga, who was driving his vehicle in the number four lane of Interstate 580, did not see that the traffic ahead of him was slowed and stopped. Although Bitanga saw both the vehicle directly in front of him move to the right and the flashing hazard lights on Beteran’s vehicle, he was unable to stop or maneuver around Beteran’s vehicle. As a result, he struck the rear of Beteran’s vehicle with enough force to cause it to ram into the rear of Chow’s vehicle, trapping Chow and Park in between the two vehicles. Park struggled, and was eventually able to free himself. He sustained a fracture of his left tibia. Chow remained pinned between the two vehicles until emergency help arrived. Once Chow was extricated, it was immediately apparent that she sustained bilateral comminuted fractures of both femurs. While Peng sustained to his neck and back, and Beteran claimed minor . No complaint was filed by Beteran, but he was apportioned a small sum ($15,000) to settle his claims against Bitanga. Chow, Park and Peng sued Bitanga; Beteran; and the registered owner of Beteran’s vehicle, Rosa Melero, Beteran’s mother. Chow, Park and Peng alleged that Bitanga and Beteran were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles and that Melero was vicariously liable for Beteran’s actions. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that before the initial accident, Beteran was directly behind Chow’s vehicle and traveling at approximately 55 miles per hour. Counsel asserted that Beteran should have been traveling at a speed and distance behind Chow’s vehicle that was sufficient enough to enable him to bring his vehicle safely to a stop without colliding with Chow. Plaintiffs’ counsel further contended that Bitanga was traveling too fast and was following the vehicle in front of him too closely. Counsel asserted that Bitanga also should have been traveling at a speed and distance behind the vehicle in front of him to allow him sufficient time to perceive and react to the traffic conditions. However, counsel asserted that Bitanga failed to bring his vehicle to a stop or maneuver around Beteran’s vehicle, causing him to slam into Beteran’s vehicle, which then rammed Chow’s vehicle and trapped Chow and Park between them. Bitanga alleged that Chow and Beteran were at fault for the second collision due to their failure to move their cars to the right shoulder following the first collision., Chow, Park and Peng were transported via ambulance to Highland Hospital, in Oakland. Chow sustained a right open supracondylar femur fracture and a left closed diaphyseal femur fracture. She also sustained multiple traumas, including a back sprain, cervical sprain, chest wall contusion, minor head injury, myocardial contusion, pneumothorax, and splenic injury. She also developed keloid/hypertrophic scars in the right popliteal fossa, sometimes referred to colloquially as the knee pit. On Dec. 31, 2012, Chow underwent an open reduction and internal fixation of her right femur fracture, and a left tibial Steinmann traction pin placement. Four days later, she underwent an open reduction and internal fixation via supracondylar nail of her bilateral femur fractures. On Aug. 15, 2013, Chow underwent a surgical removal of the internal fixation devices in her femurs, including the removal of three distal interlocking screws from her right distal femur and two distal interlocking screws from left distal femur. Chow claimed that she continues to have discomfort in both of her legs and knees, impacting her ability to kneel, squat, and sit for long periods of time. She claimed that as a result, she is considering having the hardware removed from her legs and will require a total knee replacement at some point in the future. Thus, Chow sought recovery of approximately $225,000 in past medical costs, and recovery of damages for her pain and suffering. She made no claim for lost wages or loss of earning capacity. Park sustained a segmental fracture of the left tibia. He subsequently underwent open reduction and internal fixation of the left tibia with insertion of an intramedullary nail. Park recovered well from his and has no current limitations. However, he claimed he is considering having the hardware removed from his leg. Thus, Park sought recovery of approximately $80,000 in past medical costs, and recovery of damages for his pain and suffering. He made no claim for lost wages or loss of earning capacity. Peng sustained cervical and lumbar sprains and strains. He was evaluated at Highland Hospital and discharged. Peng then received chiropractic treatment of his neck and back. Peng claimed that he suffers no limitations as a result of his . Thus, he sought recovery of approximately $3,500 in past medical costs and recovery of damages for his past pain and suffering. Peng made no claim for lost wages or loss of earning capacity.
Superior Court of San Francisco County, San Francisco, CA

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