$5,600,000: Negligent Drunk Driver Crashes Dune Buggy, Injuring Four Passengers

CASE DESCRIPTION:  Plaintiffs Derek H., Robert E.,Chrisa E., and Marinda H. brought a personal injury lawsuit against Defendant Brian M. for his negligent operation and crash of a dune buggy while the plaintiffs were passengers on May 18, 2007.  Chrisa E. also brought a claim against Defendant Brian M. for Loss of Consortium for her husband, Robert E.’s injuries.  As a result, all four plaintiffs suffered various degrees of personal injuries that have impacted their life and caused immense pain.

On May 18, 2007 in the early afternoon, Defendant Brian M. was driving Plaintiffs Derek H., Robert E., Chrisa E., and Marinda H. in his brother’s dune buggy.  The group was on their way to Blue Water Casino located on Riverside Drive near Highway 95 in Arizona.  Brian M. was driving in excess speeds of 45 miles per hour before veering onto an unpaved gravel road to take what he knew as a shortcut to their destination.  Due to this decision, Mr. M. lost control of the vehicle and struck a manhole catapulting the dune buggy into a nearby light pole and chain link fence.

After 911 was called, police officers, EMTs, and helicopters immediately arrived at the scene.  Derek H., was rushed to La Paz Hospital, then taken by helicopter to Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas.  Chrisa E. was taken to La Paz Hospital as well, and then flown by helicopter to Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Initially Marinda H. was also treated at La Paz Hospital in Parker, Arizona.  Robert E. was airlifted to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Back at the accident site, police questioned Brian about consuming alcohol prior to the incident, which he denied.  The officer proceeded to breathalyze the defendant after he failed a Field Sobriety test.  Results indicated the defendant had a blood alcohol level to be twice the legal limit.

Plaintiffs contended that Defendant Brian M. was negligent in his driving by going from a paved road to unpaved section of the road and that it was the driver’s responsibility to ensure that his passengers were properly wearing seat belts.  Defendant Brian M. admitted that he had not checked on his passengers after leaving the Blue Water Casino prior to the incident.  Plaintiffs disputed Defendant contentions of comparative liability, as noted below.

Defendants contended that the Plaintiffs shared a major portion of comparative liability as they were also intoxicated at the time of the accident.  The evidence suggest that the passengers, one of whom was the defendant driver’s fiancée and the others who were long time friends of the driver, consumed several mixed drinks and beer during the 5 hours preceding the incident. Defendants also claimed, which was undisputed, that all the three passengers that were in the back of the SPCON Sand Rail were unbelted.  Defendant claimed that the injuries would have been minimal, similar to the two front belted passengers, if the proper provided seat restraints were used.

RESULT: $5,600,000 (Policy Limits)

TYPE OF CASE: Personal Injury; Loss of Consortium


Derek H.
He underwent several surgeries after fracturing his C7 and T-1 vertebrae and scapula.

The doctor diagnosed Derek as having an unstable fracture of the cervical spine, status post anterior and posterior cervical fusion and highly comminuted unstable fracture of the left scapula, status post open reduction and internal fixation surgery.  Derek is still recovering and will need medical treatment in the future.

Robert E.
Robert suffered both physical and permanent psychological problems from the accident. Upon release, the doctor informed Robert of having: traumatic brain injury, multiple rib fractures, pulmonary contusions, T3-4 vertebral body fracture, degeneration of the lower lumbar spine, pelvic fracture.  He continues to recover from his injuries.

Chrisa E.
Chrisa’s injuries included fractured ribs, fractured pubic rami, and fractured chest bones.  Moreover, Chrisa’s lungs suffered from a right pneumothorax, making her ability to breath nearly impossible. Marinda H. was diagnosed with radial/ulna midshaft fracture and underwent surgery on her arm.  She is awaiting another surgery to get screws removed that were implanted to repair the fracture in her arm.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: Parker, Arizona on May 18, 2007 at about 5:25 p.m.

Robert E. 29
Chrisa E. 29
Marinda H. 34

OCCUPATION: Derek H.- Student
Robert E. – Website developer/programmer
Chrisa E. – Phlebotomist
Marinda H. – Optometrist

Christopher R. Aitken