Earlier this month, a Los Angeles jury awarded $13.1 million in damages to a family who was injured by a tractor trailer driver back in January 2018. The verdict, which is significant for a rear-ending accident, was rendered despite the defendants' arguments that the plaintiffs' injuries were the result of prior existing medical conditions and that their own negligence contributed to the car crash.
Back in 2018, family members Delia Hernandez-Arrezola, Vincent Gonzalez, and Francisco Hernandez-Moreno were driving down the Interstate 10 in their Ford F-150 when driver and defendant James Martin rear-ended the family car with a truck. The Peterbilt truck was owned by co-defendant Geriq Logistics LLC and was attached to a trailer owned by another co-defendant, Ramon Leon.
Hernandez-Arrezola suffered a teardrop fracture in her neck and a mild traumatic brain injury, while Gonzalez exacerbated a pre-existing knee tear from the crash. Their adult son, Hernandez-Moreno, suffered soft tissue injuries.
All three family members brought a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and owners of the truck and trailer, alleging that Martin was negligent and engaged in distracted driving, which caused the crash. Plaintiffs alleged that Hernandez-Arrezola's injuries, in particular, seriously compromised her quality of life. Aside from physical injuries, the family also alleged that the crash has traumatized them and caused persistent emotional distress.
Represented by David Rudorfer and Wyatt Vespermann of the law firm Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi LLP, and Jonathan E. Howell of Howell LLP, plaintiffs proceeded to trial against defendants Geriq Logistics and Martin, who were both represented by Byron Purcell and Julio Navarro of the law firm Ivie McNeill Wyatt Purcell and Diggs. The crux of the defendants' argument during trial and in pre-trial briefing was that the family's medical history established that their injuries were pre-existing and unrelated to the crash. Therefore, any negligence on defendants' part was not a proximate cause of the injuries. Defense counsel also highlighted Hernandez-Arrezola's ability to continue to work as a registered nursing assistant after the accident and throughout trial.
Despite defense’s arguments concerning plaintiffs’ pre-existing medical conditions, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs after two days of deliberation and awarded them $13.1 million in damages.
The case of Hernandez-Arrezola, et al., v. Geriq Logistics LLC, et al. is an example of how plaintiffs may effectively rebut any arguments that their injuries were pre-existing. In the instant matter, the plaintiff's family was able to successfully prove proximate cause, an element of negligence that can be disproven by pre-existing medical conditions. Here, not only were the plaintiffs able to meet their burden but they also obtained a relatively large award.