A San Bernardino jury recently handed down a $7,838,053 verdict to plaintiff,
Akiko Takemura (“Plaintiff”), who was a passenger in a Toyota
Prius that was struck from behind by a big rig gas tanker driven by David
Juarez. The Prius was struck while it’s driver, Chun Tsao, was attempting
to exit the freeway after it had run out of gas. Juarez was working within
the course and scope of his employment at the time of collision as an
employee of Pacific Tank Lines.
Plaintiff suffered multiple serious injuries as a result of the incident,
including multiple fractures and torn ligaments across her spine and back,
fractures to her ribs, and disc herniation. At trial, her counsel, Adam
Lugo, William Gilmore, and Justin Grassburg of Strassburg, Gilmore &
Wei LLP, presented evidence of $543,053 past medical expenses and $27,000
in loss of earnings. Plaintiffs’ counsel further argued that she
would require several surgeries in the future, including fusion surgeries
and microdiscectomy. Plaintiff further contended that she lost a career
as a singer-songwriter as a result of this incident.
Conversely, counsel for the Defense, Jason C. Gless and R. Gregory R. Amundon
of Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP, presented a theory that the
driver of the Prius was entirely responsible for the collision by allowing
the Prius to run out of gas and failing to safely pull off the road. The
Defense further contended that plaintiff herself was partially at fault
for making a late-night decision to trek off to Vegas after spending time
at a bowling alley and a bar. With respect to Plaintiffs’ injuries,
the Defense argued that Plaintiff made a full recovery by the time of
trial, as evidenced by Instagram posts depicting Plaintiff taking a Zumba
fitness class and deep-sea fishing.
Well before trial, plaintiff made a CCP 998 demand for $2,499,999 which
was not accepted. The Defense made its own CCP 998 offer of $1,450,000.00
which was also not accepted.
At the 21-day trial, Plaintiff called multiple expert witnesses including
several doctors, an accident reconstructionist, an economist, and a life
care planner. Conversely, the Defense called one medical expert and one
accident reconstruction expert. After deliberating for two days, the jury
sided with Plaintiff, finding the Defendant 99% responsible for the incident.
The other 1% was levied against Chun Tsao, the driver of the Prius.
The verdict included recovery of $543,053 in past medical expenses, $27,000
in past loss of earnings; $932,000 in future medical expenses; and $110,000
in future loss of earnings. However, the award for pain and suffering
was the driving force behind the massive verdict, with $3,150,000 awarded
for past pain and suffering and $3,075,000 awarded for future pain and
suffering damages. In total the award for pain and suffering was over
11 times greater than the amount of past medical expenses.