Two vehicles crashed at an intersection in January 2012, with the impact sending one of those vehicles careening toward the sidewalk, where it struck a bicyclist.
The cyclist was seriously injured.
Subsequently, he sued both drivers, whom we will refer to here as V1 and V2. He alleged both had been negligent in their operation of motor vehicles, causing him to suffer injury.
Jurors weighing the case of Bermudez v. Ciolek determined that while both drivers were negligent, only V1 was substantially responsible for the cyclist injuries. Thus, V1 was liable for the 100 percent of bicyclist’s $3.7 million in damages.
V1 defendant appealed, arguing the verdict was inconsistent. After all, how could both parties be negligent, but only one liable to pay damages?
The California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, affirmed the verdict, reasoning it’s actually quite simple. There are four basic elements of any negligence case. Those are:
- A duty of care
- A breach of duty
- Breach of duty caused injury
- There were damages resulting from injury
Here, duty of care was established by both drivers. (That’s usually a given in car accident cases, as all drivers owe a duty of care to others with whom they share the road to operate in a lawful and reasonably safe manner.)
The second is a breach of duty.
In this case, V1 is alleged to have made a left turn through an intersection in front of the path of V2, who was traveling straight in the opposite direction. There was some dispute about the color of the light at the time she made this move. V2 defendant asserts his light was green, which would mean V1’s light was red. V2 defendant insisted it was green.
There was evidence to back both assertions, but jurors ultimately concluded the V1’s light was red.
With regard to V2’s breach of duty, he did admit he was speeding. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 45 mph. He estimated he was traveling probably at 55 mph. V1 insisted it was more like 65. But when he saw V1 turn in front of him, he hit the brakes, and estimated by the time the two vehicles impacted, he was traveling about 45 mph.
That assertion was supported by three different expert witnesses, including V1’s own.
While jurors determined V2 was negligent for traveling too fast for conditions, they did not find that this was a substantial proximate cause of cyclist’s injuries – even though he was the one to strike the cyclist, not V1.
What that meant is that the causation element of this negligence claim, as it pertained to V2, was not met. Therefore, that defendant could not be held liable for damages. In fact, jurors had determined that although he was going slightly over the speed limit, he could not have avoided collision even if he had exercised due care.
But V1 could.
The court did slightly alter the trial court’s verdict though. The original award amount was for $3,751,969. However, the court reduced that amount by $46,000 after it found that amount in medical expenses was not substantially supported by the evidence.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Bermudez v. Ciolek , June 22, 2015, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three
More Blog Entries:
Browder v. City of Albuquerque – Suing Government for Traffic Injuries, June 25, 2015, Hollywood Bicycle Injury Lawyer