Jury Sends Plaintiff a Message
On October 29, 2019, the jury sent a strong message to plaintiff and her attorney that personal responsibility is a two-way street. Plaintiff and defendant engaged in conduct on a freeway wherein both drove aggressively toward each other. Plaintiff lost control of her vehicle and rolled after impacting the shoulder. Plaintiff was not seriously injured. Defendant, an off-duty police officer was prosecuted by the District Attorney and chose to enter a no contest plea to a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving. The incident and plea had significant professional, financial and personal consequences to defendant and defendant’s family.
Plaintiff aggressively pursued defendant in the Civil action. Plaintiff underwent attorney-referred chiropractic treatment and sought care from Kaiser for her claimed injuries. She claimed significant psychological trauma from the incident. She claimed that the incident ruined her life. Plaintiff refused a policy limits offer and offer of contribution of defendant. Plaintiff demanded $180,000 by way of a Code of Civil Procedure, Section 998.
The matter was tried to jury in San Bernardino by Scott Macdonald, of Macdonald & Cody, LLP. The defense, led by Macdonald, admitted liability but argued that plaintiff was equally responsible for the incident. Plaintiff denied any responsibility for the incident and her actions precipitating the loss of control. Plaintiff presented eye witnesses to the accident as well as the investigating Highway Patrol officer. Defendant credibly testified and admitted his responsibility for the incident and that while he had disengaged and was attempting to get away when plaintiff lost control, he admitted that he should have disengaged earlier and avoided the incident all together.
Plaintiff’s husband testified that his wife’s life was completely changed. He testified that she could not get out of bed for a month. He testified that the couple’s marriage was significantly affected by the loss and plaintiff’s injuries. He was significantly impeached by identical claims made by him a couple of years before this incident where plaintiff had run over an open manhole cover and claimed injuries that ruined her life and marriage. She had sued the power company and claimed significant injury. Plaintiff’s husband was significantly impeached when shown Facebook photos showing plaintiff out socializing with friends within a week of the accident. Plaintiff was similarly impeached by extensive use of Social Media postings. The jury was shown that the claims of continuing injury and psychological trauma was greatly exaggerated if not totally false. Defense used sub rosa footage showing that plaintiff’s claims of continuing injury were exaggerated.
The defense, led by Macdonald, asked the jury to award fault equally to both plaintiff and defendant (“50/50”). The jury returned a verdict finding plaintiff 60% responsible. Plaintiff asked the jury to award over a million dollars. The jury awarded plaintiff $3,325 in medical bills and no general damages. The defendant’s share of that amount was $1,330. Plaintiff brought a Motion for New Trial. The Court ordered a $1,000 additur as no general damages had been awarded by the jury. Macdonald and team accepted the additur and are pursuing costs.