Case details

Suit: Multiple collisions in fog resulted in fatal head-on crash





Result type

Not present

death, loss of parental guidance, loss of society
On the morning of Nov. 27, 2012, plaintiffs’ decedent QuocThang Dang, 48, was driving a 1999 Honda Accord on eastbound State Route 152, in Dinuba, on his way to work with plaintiffs’ decedents ThuyTrang Dang (Quoc Dang’s sister), 45, and Thanh Nguyen, 54, their friend. When they were near Road 16, their vehicle was struck head-on by a truck operated by Liwei Xu, who was driving for Well Trucking Inc. Shortly before the accident, the intersection was engulfed in heavy, fast moving tule fog that severely hampered visibility. Eyewitness visibility estimates ranged from 0 to 200 feet. During that time, Jose Batres, who was operating a tractor-trailer that was pulling a 45-foot trailer owned by Western Milling, LLC, attempted to make a left hand turn across two lanes of the freeway. At the same time, a tractor-trailer hauling 500-pound bales of cotton was coming from the opposite direction (westbound SR-152). As Armando Suarez Jr., the operator of the tractor-trailer that was owned by Semper Trucking Inc., entered the fog bank, Suarez reduced his speed, but could not avoid hitting Batres’ left-turning truck. As a result, Suarez’s truck clipped the rear of the Batres trailer and overturned, causing bales of cotton to fly across the westbound lanes of the highway. A few minutes later, Xu, also traveling on westbound SR-152, entered the fog bank and hit one or more cotton bales as he approached Road 16. He subsequently lost control, swerved across the median to his left and into the eastbound lanes, resulting in a head-on collision with the decedents’ Honda Accord. Quoc Dang, Thuy Dang and Thanh Nguyen were killed instantaneously. The decedent’s surviving spouses, along with their seven children, sued Xu; Well Trucking; Suarez; Semper Trucking; Batres (who was also doing business as JB’s Trucking); Western Milling; and Western Milling’s affiliate, OHK Transport, LLC. Defendants Northeast Comm FCU, Interpool Inc., and Tuff Boy Leasing Inc. were dismissed prior to trial, as the parties were incorrectly named. Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that Xu was negligent for driving too fast in reduced-visibility conditions and that Batres was negligent for making an unsafe left turn in reduced-visibility conditions. Specifically, counsel contended that it would have taken a minimum of 10 seconds for Batres to complete the turn, but that he only had three seconds of visibility. Thus, counsel argued that Batres failed to yield the right of way to Suarez and that Batres had other options available to him besides making a left-hand turn across high-speed traffic lanes in poor visibility. In addition, plaintiffs’ counsel argued that Suarez was also negligent for driving too fast for the reduced-visibility conditions and that had Suarez reduced his speed by as little as five mph, the accident would not have occurred. Thus, plaintiffs’ counsel argued that the defendant drivers violated California Vehicle Code § 22350, for driving at a speed that was excessive for the weather conditions. Counsel also argued that the defendant drivers violated Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations 49 CFR 383.110; 383.111(4), (9), (12), and (16); 383.113(b), (c)(4); 392.1; 392.2; and 392.14. Suarez claimed he exercised extreme caution in reducing his speed after entering the fog and in attempting to avoid the Batres vehicle, which he claimed violated his right of way. Suarez also claimed that there were two separate accidents and that the first accident did not cause the second accident. Xu claimed that he exercised extreme caution in reducing his speed before and after entering the fog and in attempting to avoid the cotton bales. He also claimed he did not fall below the applicable standard of care when he lost control of his vehicle after the collision with the cotton bales. Xu contended that Batres failed to take any steps to warn on-coming motorists of the debris on the highway that was caused by the collision with Suarez. Thus, he claimed that the first accident involving Batres and Suarez created an accident scene that was impossible for him to avoid. Xu claimed that as a result, Batres was 100 percent responsible for causing the deaths of the plaintiffs’ decedents. Batres claimed he took all available precautions–including watching, listening, and waiting for traffic–before making his left-hand turn, which was a reasonable option given the conditions and the other alternatives available. Batres and Suarez further claimed that their collision was not the cause of the respective deaths, which were solely caused by Xu driving way too fast for the conditions and his failure to brake, unlike what Xu alleged. They contended that had Xu driven slower and/or braked, Xu would have avoided the collision with the decedents’ vehicle., QuocThang Dang, ThuyTrang Dang, and Thanh Nguyen were on their way to work at a salon owned by the Dangs’ brother and sister in-law when they were involved in the head-on accident. They each sustained multiple traumatic and died instantaneously. Quoc Dang was 48 years old. He is survived by his wife, Hong Ngo; a 22-year-old daughter, Tuyet Nhi Dang, a student at UCLA; and a 16-year-old son, Tien Dang, a junior in high school. Thuy Dang was 45 years old. She is survived by her husband, Vinh Vo; a 21-year-old son, Khoa Vo, a student at San Jose State University; and a 19-year-old daughter, Vy Vy Vo, also a student at San Jose State University. Thanh Nguyen was 54 years old. She is survived by her husband, Ha The Nguyen; two adult daughters, Hai Thanh Nguyen and Uyen Hai Nguyen; and an adult son, Hien The Nguyen. The decedents’ families sought recovery of wrongful death damages. Claims for economic damages were dropped by all plaintiffs shortly before trial.
Superior Court of Alameda County, Oakland, CA

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