Case details

Tour bus hit elevated boom that was extended over roadway





Result type

Not present

left wrist, lower back, right arm
At around 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2012, plaintiffs Craig Lumpkin, 51, and Ronnie Miller, 51, were working in an elevated crane while in the course and scope of their employment with Young Electric Sign Co. Lumpkin and Miller parked the crane on the dedicated entrance lane of the private road and extended their boom over both the center median and the dedicated exit lane of a private exit road, Pauma Reservation Road, leading to Casino Pauma, in Pauma Valley, in San Diego County. They were in an elevated bucket, attached to the crane’s boom, which was approximately 12 feet above the ground, while working on the casino’s archway sign at the entrance to the casino property. However, there was no traffic control, such as advanced warning signs, flagmen or cones, set up that morning. Around the same time, several passengers who were leaving Casino Pauma boarded a bus operated by Dai Huynh, a commercial bus driver for Polar Express Tours, LLC. Huynh proceeded to exit the casino property by driving his bus down the dedicated exit lane. While traveling approximately 15 mph, the top of the bus struck the bottom of the elevated boom that was extended over the exit lane. As a result, the elevated bucket, in which Lumpkin and Miller were working, violently shook. Lumpkin sustained to his right arm and lower back, and Miller sustained to his left wrist and lower back. Lumpkin and Miller sued Huynh; the operator of Polar Express Tours, LLC, Polar Express Corp.; and I-5 Design & Manufacture Inc., doing business as I-5 Electrical Signs. Lumpkin and Miller alleged that Huynh was negligent in the operation of the bus and that Polar Express was vicariously liable for Huynh’s actions while in the course and scope of his work. They also alleged that I-5 Design was negligent for failing to provide traffic control and warn that construction work was taking place. I-5 Design was the general contractor hired by the Casino Pauma to oversee renovation work at the casino, including the work on the archway entrance sign. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that I-5 Design had provided traffic control — including advanced warning signs, flagmen, and cones — on the prior two days that Lumpkin and Miller were working in the elevated crane bucket. Lumpkin and Miller also claimed that on the date of the incident, a representative from I-5 Design told them to “put on their hard hats and get to work.” They claimed that as a result, they assumed that there would be additional traffic control, but that none was actually provided. The plaintiffs’ safety expert opined that the crane parked on the dedicated entrance lane with its hazard/safety lights operating should have been visible to approaching vehicles and that the worksite was “safe enough” to alert motorists driving in the exit lane that they were entering a construction zone. In addition, the expert opined that the overhead work that Lumpkin and Miller were performing while in the elevated crane that was extended over the exit lane should have been obvious to motorists due to the crane’s hazard/safety lights. I-5 Design denied that it knew Lumpkin and Miller were working on the date of the incident. It also claimed that its employees were not present or on-site to provide traffic control at the time of the incident. However, I-5 Design ultimately settled out of the case prior to trial. At trial, Huynh claimed that he did not observe any advance traffic control warning signs, directional signs, cones, or flagmen, so he was unaware that he was entering a construction zone. He also claimed that did not see any lights illuminated on the crane. Specifically, he claimed he saw no light shining directly or indirectly reflecting on the boom, which was black, and saw no flood light over the bucket in which Lumpkin and Miller were working. Thus, Huynh alleged that he did not see the elevated boom extended over the exit lane with the bucket in which Lumpkin and Miller were working, so he was unaware that work was being performed above the roadway that he was traveling on. The defense’s safety expert testified that there was improper traffic control in place at the time of the incident and that Lumpkin and Miller should have ensured that advanced warning signs were in place, and a flagman was present to direct traffic, before they elevated the boom and extended it over the dedicated exit lane from Casino Pauma., Both Lumpkin and Miller were transported from the scene to a hospital. Lumpkin suffered an acute ulna fracture in his right, dominant forearm. He also injured his back, as a lumbar MRI revealed a 3-millimeter lumbar disc bulge. Lumpkin ultimately required open reduction and internal fixation on Sept. 18, 2012. He then underwent a second surgery on March 19, 2013, as the first did not heal properly due to nonunion. As a result of his , Lumpkin did not work from Sept. 13, 2012 until June 22, 2013. Lumpkin claimed that he now experiences pain in his forearm during cold weather and that he experiences lower back pain several times a week. He alleged that as a result, he requires surgery to remove the hardware that was placed in his right forearm and requires epidural injections to treat his lumbar spine. Both the plaintiffs’ and defense’s orthopedic surgery experts agreed that Lumpkin may need a future surgical procedure to remove the hardware from his left forearm. Thus, Lumpkin sought recovery of $31,500 in past medical costs, $36,100 in past loss of earnings, $25,000 in future medical costs, $250,000 in general damages for his past pain and suffering, and $100,000 in general damages for his future pain and suffering. Miller sustained a closed fracture of the carpal bone in his right wrist and allegedly injured his lower back. A lumbar MRI revealed 3-millimeter intervertebral disc bulges at the L3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1 levels. Miller subsequently wore a splint to treat his wrist injury. Miller claimed that his wrist healed, but that he suffers constant pain and discomfort to his lower back. He alleged that as a result, he requires a lumbar laminectomy and discectomy. As a result of his , Miller was out of work from Sept. 13, 2012 until Jan. 16, 2013. He claimed he was unable to return to work in an elevated crane, as it was too strenuous, and required work modification in shop, rather than continuing to work in his field. Thus, Miller sought recovery of $18,720 in past medical costs, $24,000 in past lost earnings, between $60,000 to $80,000 in future medical costs, $12,850 in future lost earnings, $250,000 in general damages in past pain and suffering, and $100,000 in general damages for future pain and suffering. The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert disagreed with the plaintiffs’ expert orthopedic surgeon, and opined that Lumpkin did not need epidural injections for his back pain and that Miller was not a surgical candidate for a lumbar laminectomy or discectomy, based upon objective medical evidence and the fact that Miller only attended four physical therapy sessions before quitting.
Superior Court of San Diego County, Vista, CA

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