Case details

Vehicle door opened in front of bicyclist, causing crash





Result type

Not present

brain, brain injury, cognition, coma, diffuse axonal brain injury, head, headaches, mental, psychological, traumatic brain injury
On July 5, 2010, at approximately 6:35 p.m., plaintiffs’ decedent Michael Cabilao, an unemployed 59 year old, was riding his bicycle home on San Altos Place in Lemon Grove when he collided with the front, driver side door of a parked pickup truck after Jose Reynoso opened it. Cabilao subsequently flipped over his handlebars, head over heels, and landed on the back of his skull. He sustained major to his skull and brain, as well as other minor , and remained unconscious for three weeks following the accident. He was then discharged three months later, but he was determined to be permanently mentally disabled. Cabilao sued Reynoso and Carl Burger’s Dodge World, which was Reynoso’s employer and the owner of the truck. Cabilao alleged that Reynoso was negligent for opening his car door in front of him and that Carl Burger’s Dodge World was vicariously liable for its employee’s actions. Cabilao ultimately died from unrelated medical issues in February 2012. Thereafter, his sons, Jonathan Cabilao and Michael J. Cabilao, acting as successors in interest to their father’s estate, continued the case against Reynoso and Carl Burger’s Dodge World. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Reynoso violated California Vehicle Code § 22517 by opening his vehicle door just in front of the decedent’s approaching bicycle, causing the accident. Counsel further contended that Reynoso changed his account of the accident as the case developed, claiming his door was opened five to 10 seconds before the collision, as opposed to his original claim of a just few seconds before the accident. At trial, Reynoso claimed that the subject driver side door was open for five to 10 seconds before the accident. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert opined that the decedent was riding his bicycle too close to Reynoso’s truck and that the door was open for a sufficient amount of time, giving the decedent the last clear chance to avoid the accident. The defense’s biomechanical expert opined that the decedent was negligent for failing to wear a helmet at the time of the accident., Michael Cabilao sustained major to his skull and brain, as well as other minor , and was taken from the scene of the accident to an emergency room, where he remained unconscious for three weeks. He was diagnosed with severe traumatic brain , including focal hematomas and diffuse axonal shearing-type . His hospitalization included intense therapies, tests, feeding tubes, catheters and blood draws, and he suffered from bed sores and an infection during his time in the hospital. Cabilao was ultimately discharged from the hospital three months after the accident, on Sept. 24, 2010. Cabilao’s sons claimed that their father’s residual included short-term memory deficits, cognitive impairments, speech deficits, loss of the sense of smell and taste (amnesia), confusion, headaches, and other symptoms. They also claimed that their father was deemed permanently mentally disabled as a result of his brain dysfunction. They further claimed that their father remained in that condition until his death from unrelated medical causes in February 2012. The decedent’s sons, acting as successors in interest to their father’s estate at trial, sought recovery of $1,455,227.42 in past incurred medical bills. However, unbeknownst to plaintiff’s counsel, the insurer for Reynoso and Carl Burger’s Dodge World negotiated a full and final satisfaction of the decedent’s hospital bills directly with the medical providers to informally resolve the matter for $470,000. As a result, defense counsel claimed plaintiffs’ counsel could not present the full $1,455,227.42 in incurred hospital bills to the jury because the insurer’s settlement eliminated any alleged medical damages the successors in interest claimed the estate may have been liable for. Motions regarding the recoverability of allegedly non-existent medical bills were subsequently heard by the court, and judgment was reserved pending presentation of the evidence. The court also determined that the parties could not tell the jury that the hospital bills were paid by the defendants’ insurer, despite the defendants denying liability. Thus, plaintiffs’ counsel was allowed to submit the entire bill to the jury. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert opined that the decedent’s would have been completely avoided, but for the decedent’s act of negligence. Moreover, the defense’s biomechanical expert opined that the decedent’s brain and skull would not have occurred, or at least would have been dramatically reduced, had the decedent worn a helmet during the collision.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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