$3,493,000: Reckless Drunk Driver and Road Construction Leads To Death of a 20 year-old

CASE DESCRIPTION:  20 year old female killed in a head-on collision by a reckless drunk driver in the course and scope of employment.  Road  construction also contributed to the accident.  Each Defendant disputed personal liability.

RESULT:  $3,493,503.00 total verdict

The Decedent was killed in an auto accident when the Defendant drove his company vehicle over the center line of the highway and struck her car head on.  At trial the Plaintiffs (the Decedent’s parents) argued that the Defendant driver caused the accident because he had been drinking, up for 23 hours, speeding and had consumed drugs.  Prior to the accident he was at a company party after work and was in course and scope of employment.  As to State, the Plaintiffs claimed it had removed the center median for a construction project.  If the median had not been removed, the accident would not have occurred.

In response the Defense claimed the accident was caused by the Decedent, who had been driving on the wrong side of the road.  They argued when the Defendant saw her in his lane, he swerved across center line to his left.  Defendant claimed Decedent swerved to her right, back into her lane, causing the head-on collision.  The State took the position that the road did not cause or contribute to the accident.

Plaintiffs’ experts testified that the Defendant had been driving over 60 mph on an area of road posted at 25 mph. These experts also refuted the Defense’s version of the facts by pointing out that there was no evidence to support the theory that the Decedent or the Defendant swerved over the center.  However, the experts did present the more plausible theory that the accident occurred when Defendant drifted or crossed over the center line resulting in the Decedent’s death.  The experts also testified that the removal of the median, poor lighting and inadequate warning signs contributed to cause of the accident.

The Defendant driver presented their own experts who testified that the accident debris, skid marks and vehicle damage showed that at the time of impact, Defendant’s vehicle was in left turn mode. This indicates that each vehicle was on Defendant’s side of road, which could explain why the driver swerved to avoid impact and crossed the center line.  The State also presented experts who offered testimony that the road design did not cause accident.

TYPE OF CASE:  Wrongful death

INJURIES:  Decedent Lorraine H. killed in head-on collision.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: 4/27/85 at 3:50 a.m. in Orange County.

PLAINTIFFS’ AGE:  Deceased – 20 at time of incident.
Father – 48 at time of incident.
Mother – 47 at time of incident.

OCCUPATION:  Deceased – Cocktail waitress
Father – Security Consultant
Mother – Physical Therapist

Wylie A. Aitken & David P. Crandall
For Plaintiffs – Robert & Charlaine H.

Gary Sawtelle
For Defendants – Barnhill and Bear Automotive Service Equipment Co.

Alexander Dai
For Defendant – State of California