Case details

Tractor-trailer’s unsafe U-turn caused crash: motorcyclist





Result type

Not present

chest, fracture, rib, shoulder
At approximately 1:58 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2008, plaintiff Michael Vertar, 34, a California Highway Patrol officer, was riding his motorcycle on eastbound Grantline Road in Tracy when he struck the side of a 53-foot van trailer. The driver of the van, James Gibson, was attempting a U-turn from the eastbound lane to the westbound lane of Grantline Road, shortly after making a sweeping right turn out of a logistics center, when Vertar struck the vehicle, slid under the trailer and became separated from his motorcycle. Vertar claimed to his lungs, ribs and right shoulder. Vertar sued Gibson, and the owner of the tractor and van trailer, Advantage Logistics Inc., which was doing business as CTS Advantage Logistics, Gibson’s employer. Vertar alleged that Gibson was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Advantage Logistics was vicariously liable for his actions. Vertar claimed that Gibson made an unsafe U-turn in the path of his motorcycle. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified that Vertar could not avoid the accident. In addition, the plaintiff’s trucking expert testified that Gibson should have used a different exit to turn out of logistics center than the one he used, and that the defendant made an unsafe turn. Gibson was cited at the scene for making an unsafe U-turn and paid the ticket. Evidence of the citation and the fact that it was paid was admitted into evidence by the trial judge over the defendants’ objections. Defense counsel contended that Vertar had sufficient time to perceive, react and stop his motorcycle without hitting the van trailer. Counsel also contended that Vertar was attempting to pass the truck before the road narrowed into two lanes at the time of the crash. The defense’s accident reconstruction and human factors experts testified that the accident was completely avoidable by Vertar. Defense counsel presented several animations of the accident, which they claimed demonstrated that the collision was avoidable. Counsel also presented testimony from a trucking expert, who opined that Gibson made the right choice on which exit to use and that he followed the proper procedures for making a U-turn., Vertar was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he remained for three days. He sustained a comminuted fracture of his right, dominant clavicle, as well as lung contusions, fractured ribs, and bodily cuts and bruises. Six months after the accident, Vertar underwent open reduction and internal fixation surgery on his shoulder, with the insertion of a plate. He then followed up with physical therapy for eight months. Due to alleged residual pain in his upper right extremity, Vertar was unable to pass the CHP’s physical, specifically in regards to arresting suspects and using a baton. He also claimed that he is also unable to use an AR-15 assault rifle due to pain and weakness in his right shoulder. Thus, Vertar claimed he was permanently disabled and officially retired from the CHP. As a result, he receives disability retirement from the state of California. Vertar claimed past lost earnings of $337,446 and future lost earnings of $2,777,100. Thus, he asked the jury to award $3.3 million in total damages, which included damages for his past and future pain and suffering. However, Vertar did not make a claim for medical specials at trial, as they were covered by the CHP. Defense counsel argued that while Vertar was presently disabled from his occupation, it was medically probable that he could return to work with physical therapy, strengthening exercise and having the surgical plate removed. Counsel contended that Vertar’s disability was due to subjective symptoms resulting from pain caused by the plate inserted in his clavicle. Counsel further contended that the removal of the plate was a low-risk operation that would permit Vertar to return to work as a CHP officer. Thus, counsel argued that Vertar failed to mitigate his future lost earnings by refusing to have the surgery to remove the plate. Defense counsel further argued that Vertar had done little to try to return as a CHP officer and/or to gainfully re-employ himself.
Superior Court of Santa Clara County, San Jose, CA

Recommended Experts


Get a FREE consultation for your case