Case details

Rear-ender caused by truck driver’s excessive speed: plaintiffs





Result type

Not present

brain, brain damage, brain injury, bulging disc, cervical, cognition, emotional distress, face, frontal lobe contusion, impairment, lip, mental, neck, nose, psychological, traumatic brain injury
On July 8, 2015, plaintiff Oscar Esparza, 32, a warehouse lead, was driving a Mitsubishi Spider with his girlfriend, plaintiff Cristal Ritchie, as a front seat passenger and her two children — plaintiffs Natalie Uribe, 9, and Aiden Uribe, 3, — as back seat passengers. Esparza had returned home to Riverside to introduce Ritchie and her children to his parents, knowing that he planned to propose to her soon after. However, as they began their drive back to Colorado and were traveling on eastbound State Route 91, also known as the Riverside Freeway, toward Interstate 15, the driver right in front of them, Jong Tae Jinn, missed his exit and, at the last minute, decided to merge through the gore point. However, Jinn had to stop in the lane of traffic, as the gore point had orange sticks that were there to prevent exactly what Jinn was doing, and then attempted to maneuver around them. As a result, Esparza hit his brakes hard and barely missed Jinn’s vehicle. However, a flat-box truck operated by Juan Serafio rear-ended Esparza’s vehicle. Esparza sustained to his head and neck, Ritchie sustained to her neck and lower back, Natalie sustained to her face and leg, and Aiden sustained to his abdomen. Esparza, acting individually, and Ritchie, acting individually and as guardian of Natalie and Aiden, sued Jinn; Serafio; and and the owner of Serafio’s box truck, Win Distribution Inc. The plaintiffs alleged that Jinn and Serafio were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles and that Win Distribution was vicariously liable for Serafio’s actions while in the course and scope of his employment. Fleet Logistic, LLC was also initially named as a defendant, but it was ultimately removed from the case. In addition, Jinn settled with the plaintiffs prior to trial and was subsequently out of the case. Thus, the matter continued to trial against Serafio and Win Distribution only. Plaintiffs’ counsel admitted that the first driver, Jinn, was negligent, but argued that Jinn’s negligence did not “cause the harm.” Rather, counsel argued that the severity of Serafio’s collision at 31 to 39 mph caused the harm to the occupants of Esparza’s vehicle and that the crash was 100 percent Serafio’s fault, as Serafio was inattentive, followed too closely, and drove at an unreasonable speed. Serafio’s counsel presented a sudden emergency defense, arguing that Serafio was unable to stop in time to avoid the collision. Counsel also argued that Jinn was at fault because he stopped without notice, causing the accident., Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that the force of the impact was so severe to the back of Esparza’s vehicle that it damaged Esparza’s seat back, causing Esparza to take the brunt of the impact. However, Esparza, Ritchie, Natalie and Aiden were all transported to a hospital following the accident. Esparza lost consciousness at the scene, but regained consciousness about 10 to 15 minutes later. The emergency medical technician subsequently determined that Esparza scored a 15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, which suggests a possible mild traumatic brain injury. At the hospital, a CT scan of Esparza was positive for a right, frontal lobe contusion and it was determined that he sustained a herniated cervical disc. Esparza subsequently stayed under observation in the hospital for six days. When two other CT scans showed a stable contusion, he was released from the hospital. The family returned to their home in Colorado, and Esparza was off of work for four months due to his neck and back pain. He then went back to work as a warehouse lead. During that time, he treated with a chiropractor, but then ultimately stopped treating altogether. Before Esparza went back to work, the plaintiff’s neurology expert saw him and ordered an MRI. In October 2015, the MRI was found to be positive for a right frontal lobe contusion. Esparza then went to the plaintiff’s neuropsychology expert in January 2017. The expert opined that there was essentially one area of cognitive deficiency associated with the right frontal lobe and diagnosed Esparza with a mild neurocognitive disorder. Based on the finding of the plaintiff’s neuropsychology expert, Esparza was evaluated by Centre for Neuro Skills (CNS), a neurocognitive rehabilitation center in Encino, and was admitted into its inpatient program. He was then released four months later and did one month of outpatient treatment. He had no other treatment. Accordingly, Esparza claimed he suffered a traumatic brain injury. Ritchie complained of pain to her neck and lower back following the accident. Natalie’s front tooth pierced through her lip, and she also claimed she suffered leg pain. Aiden complained of some stomach pain after the accident. However, Ritchie and her children mainly claimed they suffered emotional distress as a result of the crash. Natalie and Aiden ultimately went back to school and did not receive counseling.
Superior Court of Riverside County, Riverside, CA

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