Case details

Truck’s unsafe turn resulted in bicyclist’s need for amputation





Result type

Not present

emotional distress, mental, psychological
On Dec. 7, 2012, at around 8:40 a.m., plaintiff Alan Casillas, 19, a high school student, was riding his beach cruiser bicycle on a sidewalk along westbound Tweedy Boulevard, in Los Angeles. After Casillas came to a stop at the intersection with Alameda Street, a 55-foot-long trailer, part of a tractor-trailer operated by Francisco Azurdia, drove over the sidewalk, striking Casillas’ bike and knocking Casillas to the ground. The rear wheels of the trailer then ran over Casillas’ left leg. Casillas sued Azurdia and the owner of the tractor-trailer, Landstar Ranger Inc. Casillas alleged that Azurdia was negligent in the operation of the tractor-trailer and that Landstar was vicariously liable for Azurdia’s actions. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Azurdia drove the tractor-trailer into the intersection and was attempting to make a right turn onto Alameda Street. However, after interviewing Casillas, Azurdia and multiple eyewitnesses, the responding the California Highway Patrol officer determined that Azurdia caused the collision by driving his trailer over the sidewalk when Azurdia failed to allow enough room to safely make the right turn. Thus, plaintiff’s counsel (and the responding CHP officer) determined that Azurdia’s actions constituted a violation of California Vehicle Code § 22107 (for unsafe turning movement). Defense counsel initially asserted that Casillas was comparatively at fault, in that Casillas could have avoided the trailer, but that he was inattentive due to being on a cell phone. Counsel also initially asserted that the design of the intersection was a dangerous condition. However, during jury selection, Azurdia admitted that he was solely at fault for the accident., Casillas was taken to St. Francis Medical Center, in Lynwood, where he remained hospitalized for 54 days. After the third day of hospitalization, Casillas’ left leg, which was swollen and discolored, was amputated below the knee. He then underwent a course of rehabilitation. After rehab, Casillas was prescribed a prosthesis for walking. However, he claimed that two of the prosthetic legs caused him pain and that he ultimately required more revision surgeries. Casillas is now 21 years old and he can drive without assistance. However, he claimed that he is embarrassed about needing assistance with getting around and that he is saddened by the appearance of his leg since the amputation. He also claimed that looking at his leg depresses him, so he tries not to look at it. Casillas further claimed additional emotional distress, including nightmares, which have since subsided. Before the accident, Casillas dropped out of high school when he was in the 11th grade and worked in manual labor. He claimed he was athletic and liked to ride his bike long distances, as well as run, but that he can no longer do so. He also claimed he has been unable to return to work in construction because of the pain he suffers and the difficulty he has getting around. In addition, Casillas testified about his strong family ties, marriage and fatherhood, and about obtaining his General Educational Development (GED) diploma after the accident. The parties agreed that Casillas’ past medical expenses totaled $754,351. Defense counsel noted that Casillas was able to earn his GED diploma after the accident and that he attended junior college. Counsel also noted that Casillas got married, had a child, and participated in many family activities. In addition, counsel noted that Casillas was able to secure employment and that he is able to drive a car and walk with a prosthesis. Thus, defense counsel argued that Casillas made a good recovery and has a bright future. Counsel further challenged the amount of damages sought by Casillas and asked the jury to award Casillas between approximately $5 million and $7 million.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA

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