Case details

Truck driver traveled too fast for the weather conditions: plaintiff





Result type

Not present

cervical, fusion, herniated disc, neck
On Dec. 30, 2017, plaintiff Jose Garcia, 68, a truck driver, was driving a tractor hauling two trailers on westbound State Route 198, also known as the Hanford Expressway, when he reached the intersection with Second Avenue, in Hanford. As he was attempting to use a median, left turn lane to turn onto 2nd Avenue by crossing multiple lanes of oncoming traffic, Garcia’s second trailer was struck by a tractor-trailer operated by Ryan Freitas, who was traveling on eastbound SR-198. Garcia claimed to his neck. Garcia sued Freitas and Freitas’ employer, Shannon Bros. Co. Garcia alleged that Freitas was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that Shannon Bros. Co. was vicariously liable for Freitas’ actions. Esbeco Equipment Co., LLC was also named as a defendant, but it was ultimately dismissed from the case. Garcia’s counsel contended that Garcia only turned after seeing several cars pass, but that the weather conditions on the day of the accident consisted of thick, dense Tule fog, which is a thick ground fog that is characteristic of the Central Valley in California during the winter months. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert opined that the speed of impact was 35 mph. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel argued that Freitas was negligent for driving an excessive speed for the weather conditions. Defense counsel contended that Garcia was in violation of Vehicle Code § 21801(b), which states that "a driver having yielded, as prescribed in subdivision (a), and having given a signal when as required by this code, may turn left or complete a U-turn, the drivers of vehicles approaching the intersection or the entrance to the property shall yield to the right of way of the turning vehicle." With the low visibility and Garcia’s own deposition testimony that he could not see Freitas’ freightliner and trailer because of the dense fog prevailing at the time, defense counsel argued that it was clear that Garcia was negligent himself and should not have attempted to execute a left-turn under the circumstances. Defense counsel noted that there were contentions between the parties concerning the lack of specialized fog-driving training for Freitas. However, defense counsel argued that Freitas, a lifelong resident of Hanford, where the Kings County Superior Court is located and where agriculture, which both Garcia and Freitas were transporting, is the number one employment sector, was accustomed to driving various vehicles, including tractor-trailer rigs in inclement weather such as dense fog. Counsel further argued that Freitas had abundant professional truck driving experience prior to his employment with Shannon Brothers Co., when he worked for Martin Milk and in the oilfields, where it would be extremely foggy as well., Garcia claimed he sustained herniated cervical discs. He sought medical care one month after the accident and then treated with chiropractic care, physical therapy and trigger point injections in the upper back and neck. Garcia ultimately underwent an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion at the C3-4 and C4-5 levels, and had a temporary trial placement of a spinal cord stimulator at the C2-3 level. Before the date of loss, Garcia purportedly earned approximately $14,000 per month. However, he claimed that his physical immediately after the collision forced convalescence for nearly two months. He also claimed he had to work in a reduced capacity when he returned. Between February 2019 and March 2019, Garcia was unable to work at all because of his surgery and the period required for recovery. When Garcia returned to the workplace in March 2019, he had to hire assistance from his brother, which cost him 25 percent of his earnings on every load hauled. As such, he claimed he lost earnings of $3,500 each month. Garcia claimed that he can no longer lift heavy objects and that his life has fundamentally been exacerbated, as he cannot engage in conjugal relations with his wife as he did prior to the collision and contribute to household chores. He also claimed that he now has trouble changing the tires on his truck and lifting up his grandchildren. As a result, Garcia claimed he suffers from emotional distress. Garcia claimed that he will require a permanent spinal cord stimulator, epidural steroid injections, a pain management program, additional diagnostic testing, medication and routine care, such as physical therapy. He also claimed that he will require a minimum of one additional fusion surgery because of adjacent disc disease in the cervical spine caused by the previous accident-related cervical discectomy and fusion. The plaintiff’s life care planner opined that Garcia will require over $1.5 million in future care and treatment, including rotator cuff surgery, household assistive devices, psychological counseling and therapy, physical therapy, and other medical services over the course of the next 16 to 17 years of life. Garcia sought recovery for his past and future medical costs, past and future loss of earnings, and past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel denied that Garcia sustained any in the accident because Garcia did not complain of at the scene, and because Garcia disconnected the second trailer and drove onto his previously scheduled destination to deliver his load. Counsel also noted that Garcia did not seek medical attention for approximately 30 days after the accident.
Superior Court of Kings County, Hanford, CA

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