Case details

Woman claimed brain injury from church bus collision





Result type

Not present

back, blunt force trauma, blunt force trauma to the head, brain, brain injury, cervical, cognition, head, lumbar, mental, mild traumatic brain injury, neck, psychological, strain, traumatic brain injury
On Feb. 21, 2011, plaintiff Marc Peebles, 50, a fire department battalion chief, was driving a Nissan Murano east on California Route 189 with his wife, plaintiff Jackie Peebles, 55, a self-employed child care worker, as a front-seat passenger. When they were near Lake Arrowhead, they were involved in a collision with a westbound passenger bus owned by the Light of Love Mission Church and driven by a church employee, Won Seok Chae. After colliding with the Peebles’ vehicle, the bus left the road and struck a tree. The bus driver sustained fatal , while Mr. Peebles sustained spinal and his wife sustained a head injury. The Peebles sued Light of Love Mission Church and the estate of Won Seok Chae. The Peebles alleged that Chae was negligent in the operation of the bus and that the church was vicariously liable for Chae’s actions. The Peebles’ complaint was one of several complaints, consisting of 23 other complainants who also claimed damages from the collision. The other complaints were filed by, or on behalf of, 23 of the bus passengers and their complaints were filed against the church, the estate of Chae and Mr. Peebles. In addition, product liability claims were filed against the manufacturer of the bus and the dealer that sold the church the bus, as well as their respective business owners. They also filed claims against the state of California and the State of California Department of Transportation, alleging that the crash was at least partially caused by road defects. In addition, the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District filed a small claims action against the church due to a telephone pole that was knocked down in the crash. All of the complaints were ultimately consolidated into a single action. However, the passengers’ claims against the manufacturer, the dealer, the state and Department of Transportation, the driver’s estate, and Mr. Peebles were dismissed prior to trial, as was the small claims action. The passengers’ claims against the church were also all settled prior to trial. Thus, the matter proceeded to trial with only the Peebles’ claims against Light of Love Mission Church. At trial, the Peebles’ counsel maintained that the bus driver, Chae, acting in his capacity as an employee of the church, failed to exercise proper care when driving on the narrow mountain road. Counsel contended that as a result, Chae lost control of the bus, crossed over the center line, and struck the left front corner of the Peebles’ vehicle with the left front corner of the bus. Light of Love Mission Church did not dispute negligence., Mr. and Ms. Peebles were both transported by ambulance to an emergency room. Mr. Peebles claimed that he sustained cervical and lumbar strains. Ms. Peebles claimed that she sustained blunt force trauma to her head, resulting in a mild traumatic brain injury. She alleged that her brain injury caused cognitive impairment, memory impairment, visual impairment, and personality changes. Plaintiffs’ counsel maintained that Ms. Peebles now has difficulties with anger management and is frequently unable to perform basic household tasks due to lapses in short-term memory. Counsel also maintained that the personality changes and mental impairments make it impossible for Ms. Peebles to return to child care work, which has put an enormous strain on the Peebles’ marriage. The plaintiffs’ neuroradiology expert testified that evidence of Ms. Peebles’ brain injury can be seen in a magnetoencephalography scan. Thus, Mr. and Ms. Peebles sought recovery of $1.85 million in damages for their past and future pain and suffering, emotional distress, physical impairment, and loss of consortium. Neither plaintiff submitted medical bills. Defense counsel disputed the damages alleged by Mr. and Ms. Peebles. Counsel denied that Ms. Peebles had sustained a traumatic brain injury and contended that Ms. Peebles did not complain of any head injury to paramedics on the scene or at the emergency room. Defense counsel also contended that emergency room physicians performed five hours of neurological testing and monitoring of Ms. Peebles, but that they did not find any abnormalities and subsequently discharged her with a diagnosis of cervical and lumbar strains. The defense’s expert neuropsychologist opined that Ms. Peebles was not displaying brain injury symptoms, and the defense’s expert neurologist opined that no brain were visible on Ms. Peebles’ CAT scans and MRIs. In addition, the defense’s biomechanical and accident reconstruction experts testified that the forces involved in the collision were not severe enough to cause a brain injury.
Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA

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