$2,200,000: Malibu Teens Collect Policy Limits When Teenage Driver Loses Control Of BMW

CASE DESCRIPTION: The Plaintiffs, Kendall G and Danielle S, were passengers in a high powered BMW being driven by Hannah B, the daughter of  Lost director, Jack B.  Plaintiffs contended that Defendant, Hannah B, recklessly drove over a known “dip” in the road in Malibu, attempting to catch air, such that the defendant B lost control of the BMW causing it to strike a concrete wall.  Plaintiffs also contended that the underage Defendant, while not legally intoxicated, made poor judgment by drinking alcohol at a local establishment, Taverna Tony’s, prior to entering such vehicle.  Plaintiffs brought a separate action against the owner of the vehicle,  Jack B, under a theory of negligent entrustment.  Defendants denied these contentions and argued that Plaintiffs were negligent by entering the subject vehicle.  Defendant also denied the nature and extent of the injuries being presented by Plaintiffs.

RESULT: $2,200,000 (Policy Limits)
$1,100,000 Kendall G
$1,100,000 Danielle S

PLAINTIFFS’ CONTENTIONS AS TO LIABILITY: This litigation arose out of a tragic car incident that occurred on March 19, 2004.  On the evening of Friday March 19, 2004, four teenaged girls met at a Malibu restaurant, Taverna Tony’s, for a light dinner.  The defendant, who was 18 years old at the time, ordered an alcoholic beverage and was served by a friend waiter at the restaurant.  After their meal, the girls climbed into the 2002 BMW owned by Jack B (a director of the television show Lost.)  The driver of the vehicle was the vehicle owner’s daughter, Hannah B.  Plaintiff, Kendall G, sat in the back seat and Danielle S sat in the front passenger seat.  Prior to getting into the car, per deposition testimony of Plaintiffs, Hannah said that she was fine to drive.  Based on the statements of witnesses, it appeared that Hannah was not affected by her consumption of alcohol. The toxicology results indicated that Hannah B was indeed below the legal limit for consumption of alcohol.

After a brief stop at a local gas station, Hannah took off up Malibu Road.  Hannah began to increase her rate of speed and, per witness testimony, asked the other girls if she should “get air” on a well known dip on Malibu Road that she was rapidly approaching.  Per witness testimony, the passengers asked Hannah to slow her vehicle but it was not heeded.  The BMW did lift off the road on Malibu wherein defendant lost control of the vehicle and struck a concrete wall head on.  The driver, and two of the passengers, were unconscious due to the collision.  Kendall G was the only occupant who remained conscious post incident.

Plaintiffs further contended that Jack B, despite knowing his daughter’s troubled history, negligently provided his daughter a 2002 BMW X5 sports car to frequently drive prior to and on the day of the subject incident.  Plaintiffs contended, through expert testimony, that defendant drove between 80 and 90 miles per hour shortly before impact.  Plaintiffs alleged punitive damages against defendants for such reckless conduct.  Defendant was prosecuted criminally for her actions.

DEFENDANTS’ CONTENTIONS AS TO LIABILITY: Defendants disputed Plaintiffs contentions and alleged that Plaintiffs were comparatively negligent for entering the vehicle after the dinner at Taverna Tony’s.  Defendant contended that she did not drive recklessly or intend to injure any of the occupants in the vehicle.  Defendants disputed the nature, and extent, of the injuries suffered by Plaintiffs.  As to Kendall G, Defendants contended the “seatbelt defense” against the unbelted passenger.  As to Danielle S, Defendants contended that her injuries were caused, partially, by another passenger, Savannah G, such that Hannah B was not fully responsible for such injuries.

TYPE OF CASE: Automobile Accident, Personal Injury

INJURIES: Kendall G –  Right tibia (low leg) and fibula comminuted transverse fractures, Left knee cap patellar fracture and bone bruise left tibial plateau, left distal radius (left elbow) fracture,  avulsion fracture of the transverse processes of L2-L3, Lumbar spine circumferential disc bulges at L3-4, L4-5 and L5-S1. Danielle S – bilateral iliac wing pelvic fractures, bilateral wrist fractures, fracture to the distal left radius, tailbone fracture.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: March 19, 2004, approximately 9:30 p.m., Malibu Road, Malibu, California.

PLAINTIFFS’ AGE: Kendall G 17, Danielle S 17

PLAINTIFFS ASKED FOR: $2,200,000 (Policy Limits)

DEFENDANTS OFFERED: $400,000 Initially, increased to $1,200,000  at mediation.

SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS: The matter was settled after two mediation sessions in front of Jeffrey Krivis of Judicate West shortly prior to trial.

POSTSCRIPT: Taverna Tony’s, and its owner Tony Koursaris were prosecuted by the Alcohol Beverage Control Unit for serving alcohol to minors.

Christopher R. Aitken, Esq.
Wylie Aitken, Esq.
Aitken * Aitken * Cohn
For Plaintiffs – Kendall G and Danielle S

Richard W. Miller, Esq., Crandall Wade & Lowe (for Defendants/State Farm);
Mark R. Weiner, Esq., Barry Bartholemew & Associates (Associate Counsel for Defendants)
For Defendants – HANNAH B and JACK B