Case details

Truck driver relied on another driver who waved him on: defense





Result type

Not present

disfigurement, fracture, leg, leg burns, scar
On Sept. 19, 2014, plaintiff Michael McCamey, 45, a UPS delivery driver, was motorcycling at roughly 10 mph in the second of two southbound lanes, in congested, rush-hour traffic, on southbound Valley View Boulevard, in Santa Fe Springs. When McCamey was mid-block, his motorcycle was broadsided by a 35,000-pound tractor-trailer operated by Adalberto Rodriguez, who was attempting to complete a left turn into the driveway of a truck yard. Rodriguez never saw McCamey at any point before or during his turn, so he never braked prior to the front of his tractor-trailer striking the left side of McCamey’s motorcycle. As a result, McCamey and his motorcycle were knocked down and pushed roughly 15 feet before Rodriguez stopped because he felt that the forward motion of his rig was being blocked by something. Rodriguez, who still did not know he had struck McCamey and his motorcycle, then drove backward and forward over McCamey and his motorcycle, which had become lodged under the front of the tractor. McCamey remained trapped under the tractor and unable to move as his left leg was broken and gas from his motorcycle’s ruptured gas tank poured over him. Although the gas did not ignite, the engine’s contact caused significant burns and scars to McCamey’s left leg and foot. He was eventually freed after a forklift from a nearby business lifted the tractor off of him. McCamey sued Rodriguez, alleging that Rodriguez was negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer. Plaintiff’s counsel noted that three police officers investigated the collision and that each found that Rodriguez was the sole cause of the collision due to his illegal left hand turn, which violated the applicable vehicle code. The officers testified that McCamey had the right of way and that Rodriguez had the duty to yield to McCamey, but, instead Rodriguez made a left turn when McCamey was too close for the turn to be made safely. The officers also testified that Rodriguez’s view of McCamey was blocked by stopped traffic and that Rodriguez should not have started his turn as such. They further testified that Rodriguez was distracted during his turn, as he was looking to his left side, rather than at McCamey’s direction of approach, as Rodriguez had to make sure that he cleared stopped traffic on his left as he made his sweeping left turn. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert agreed with the findings of the investigating officers and also found that McCamey did not have any responsibility for the accident. Although plaintiff’s counsel never designated the three officers as experts, the court allowed the officers to testify as experts and allowed the officers and accident reconstructionist to testify as to the ultimate questions of liability, neglect and vehicle violations, over defense counsel’s objections, as those issues were reserved for the jury to decide. Defense counsel argued that Rodriguez made his left turn safely after waiting and watching for the approach of traffic, such as McCamey, who was lane sharing as he rode his motorcycle along the curbside of the second lane on southbound Valley View Boulevard. Rodriguez claimed that he made his left turn in front of two vehicles that stopped to allow him to make his turn and that he justifiably relied on the driver of the vehicle in the second lane, a large tractor-trailer, whose presence blocked his view of McCamey’s approach, to direct him through his turn, as that driver was waiving Rodriguez through. Defense counsel further argued that McCamey was responsible for stopping and ensuring that there was no cross traffic that could strike him, given that traffic was at a standstill and that other vehicles might be crossing his path, even though McCamey admittedly had the right of way., McCamey sustained comminuted fractures of the left tibia and fibula during the process of the tractor’s movement. He also remained trapped and unable to move under the tractor as he sustained significant burns and puncture wounds to the left leg, as it was pressed against the motorcycle’s hot engine. At the same time, gas from the trapped motorcycle poured out onto the roadway, causing McCamey to believe that he would ignite in flames at any moment. After a forklift from a nearby business lifted the tractor off of him, McCamey was transported by ambulance to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, in Orange, where he had rodding and pinning surgery to correct the fractures. He remained at the hospital for one week, and then followed up with physical therapy and orthopedic visits. McCamey also underwent wound care to address the delayed healing from an infection and non-union of the fractures. McCamey was on disability for one full year. After returning to work for three weeks, McCamey quit, as he claimed his caused him to be unable to perform his duties. McCamey alleged that his residual limited his work and recreational activities and that he was left with significant scarring to his left leg. He also alleged that his future medical care should include rod removal surgery, which was agreed to cost $15,000. McCamey’s past medical care, which was stipulated to by the defense as reasonable and necessary, totaled $132,000. However, prior to trial, the defendant purchased McCamey’s lien for his past medical care, so the court ruled that McCamey could not present the past bills to the jury. Further, to limit the impact of two past felony convictions, McCamey limited his claim for past lost earnings to the one year that immediately followed the accident, which allegedly totaled $73,000. Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award McCamey $1,588,000 in total damages, including $73,000 in past lost earnings, $15,000 in future medical expenses, $900,000 in general damages for his past pain and suffering, and $600,000 in general damages for his future pain and suffering. Defense counsel suggested that if the jury found Rodriguez negligent, it should award McCamey only $148,000 in total damages, which included $73,000 in past lost earnings and $75,000 in past general damages.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, CA

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