John Farmer & Lisa Freund Defend Contractor/SDG&E Against $17M - $24M Jury Demand

John Farmer and Lisa Freund recently teamed together in the successful defense of a contractor and SDG&E. In Durant v. SDG&E, et al., plaintiff was riding his motorcycle to work on Coronado when he came to a line of traffic stopped by a construction flagger to allow a contractor to offload a Bobcat from a flatbed and drive it across the street into the local public utility power substation. Plaintiff, well back in line, was passing stopped traffic on the right when the unloading operation was completed and the flagger released traffic. Plaintiff, still not at the front of the line, kept passing now moving vehicles on the right. The driver of a pickup truck that was first in line moved forward, then began to turn into a curbside parking space. Plaintiff collided with the side of the truck.

Plaintiff initially sued only the truck driver, and settled that case for the driver’s minimum limits policy. He then sued the public utility and the construction contractor, alleging that the equipment offload was done in a negligent fashion and caused the accident.

During a 6 week San Diego County Superior Court jury trial, plaintiff dismissed the public utility for a waiver of costs while a non-suit motion was pending. Proceeding against only the construction contractor, plaintiff sought to recover $350,000 in medical expenses for undisputed injuries including a scapular fracture, a mild concussion and soft tissue injuries, and for disputed injuries including mild traumatic brain injury, stroke, and a neck injury requiring future fusion surgery, and a low back injury that led to a failed disc replacement/fusion surgery requiring 5-level fusion surgery in the future. Plaintiff had not worked since the accident in 2004 and contended he would never work again. He sought past and future loss of earnings of approximately $1,000,000. Plaintiff asked the jury for between $17M and $24M, far exceeding the defense’s $500,000 settlement offer.

After two days of deliberations, the jury returned a defense verdict. Although critical of some aspects of the contractor’s performance, the jury found that the contractor was not the legal cause of the accident and was not liable to the plaintiff to any degree.