Case details

Trailer’s detached tire and rim caused accident, plaintiff alleged




Mediated Settlement

Result type

Not present

back, neck, spondylosis, stenosis
On Dec. 26, 2012, at approximately 11:27 a.m., plaintiff Randy Royal, 42, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer, was in the course and scope of his employment while driving his CHP Ford Crown Victoria cruiser in the center lane of northbound State Route 99 when he approached a tractor-trailer operated by Laurentino Flores. As Royal was approaching the commercial tractor, which was towing a trailer carrying a school house model, the left rear tire and rim detached from the trailer and came into Royal’s lane. The tire and rim then bounced underneath Royal’s vehicle, causing the vehicle to catapult into the air for approximately one second before forcefully crashing down on the pavement. (The CHP vehicle had an MVARS recording system onboard that filmed the entire incident.) Royal’s vehicle was rendered a total loss, and he claimed to his back and neck. Royal sued Flores, and Flores’ employer and owner of the tractor-trailer, Pacific Mobile Structures Inc. Royal alleged that Flores was negligent in the operation the tractor-trailer and that Pacific Mobile was vicariously liable for Flores’ actions through the course and scope of his work. Plaintiff’s counsel performed, via his engineering expert, one day of vehicle crash testing in Phoenix and asserted that the defendants were negligent under the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. Specifically, counsel contended that the defendants violated a non-delegable duty to have their motor vehicle maintained in safe mechanical condition. The defendants’ disputed Royal’s liability claims in their mediation brief, asserting that Royal could not show why the tire and rim detached., Royal left the scene of the accident in another CHP cruiser and went back to the office to take his K-9 partner to the veterinarian. Later in the day, he went to his family practitioner, in Clovis, with complaints of neck and back pain. Royal underwent X-rays of his neck and back, and followed up with physical therapy. He was also seen by an agreed medical examiner, through workers’ compensation, who eventually ordered a cervical MRI. The MRI was conducted in September 2013 and it revealed spondylotic changes of the cervical spine, resulting in central spinal stenosis and cord compression that was moderate at C5-6 and mild at C6-7, as well as mild narrowing of the left C3-4 neural foramina and moderate narrowing of right C5-6 neural foramina. Royal was then seen by three specialists at Sierra Pacific Orthopedics, in Fresno, one of which recommended steroid injections. He was also recommended by two surgeons to undergo an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion at the C5-6 and C6-7 levels, if his condition became too severe. Royal claimed he was earning $93,077 yearly as a K-9 CHP officer at the time of the accident. His treating physicians made Royal retire on disability in March 2014, and Royal is now receiving a disability pension in the amount of $3,888.73 per month. Royal claimed the difference between disability and vested benefit was a present value figure of $224,520. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the matter was a collateral source, but if it was to be considered by a trier of fact, the accrued value of the disability pension was earned and paid through Royal’s employment. Thus, counsel contended that the difference of $224,520 would be the only lien that should be reduced by attorney’s fees. However, plaintiff’s counsel noted that he corresponded with CalPERS on two occasions, but could not get a reply. Royal sought recovery of $1,776,021 for the present value losses (as prepared by the plaintiff’s expert economist). He also sought recovery of damages for his pain and suffering, while his wife, Tracy Royal, sought recovery of damages for her loss of consortium. Defense counsel contended that Royal should have the proposed surgery, which would most probably allow Royal to go back to work as a CHP officer. Counsel further contended that Royal had pre-existing disc degeneration and some stenosis that was asymptomatic, and that the condition was moderately aggravated by the subject accident.
Superior Court of Fresno County, Fresno, CA

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