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San Bernadino County, California

This combined wrongful death and personal injury case was brought after the plaintiffs’ teenage daughters were both injured and killed in a motor vehicle accident. The driver of the Saturn sedan they were riding in sped over a rise in the road on eastbound State Route ________, which launched them into the air, causing the vehicle to roll multiple times and land on the roof. Two of the passengers were killed and one suffered soft tissue injuries as a result of the accident. The plaintiffs brought suit against the State of California Department of Transportation for negligent road design and for failing to correct the dangerous road or warn of the dangerous condition with traffic controls or signage. The defendant contended the road was not dangerous when used with due care in a reasonably foreseeable manner.

The accident occurred on May 29, ________ as the driver of the sedan sped in excess of 75 miles per hour over the rise in the road. A witness stated the car went airborne, landed, turned sharply to the right and went off the road. The car rolled multiple times before landing on its roof. The driver admitted her act was intentional and that with encouragement from her passengers she tried and succeeded in getting her car to fly through the air. The two female passengers on the passenger side of the vehicle died and the passenger riding behind the driver suffered soft tissue injuries resulting in $________ in medical costs.

The plaintiffs argued that not only was there a severe depression in the road, but that there also existed the absence of speed regulations, guard rails, warnings signs or a clear shoulder or recovery area. The defendant argued the accident was purely the fault of the teenage driver who was driving at an excessive and unsafe speed.

The plaintiff’s highway design expert worked for the department of transportation 50 years prior and testified he informed the department, during his employment, that the road would need correction. He testified the department had ignored the dangerous road for 50 years. The plaintiffs also introduced stacks of traffic collision reports documenting other drivers who had left the roadway at the same location. The defendant argued the other accidents were the fault of the drivers not exercising proper care.

Prior to trial the defendant offered $________ each to the parents of the deceased passengers, and during the closing arguments the defendant extended an offer of $2 million each. That offer was denied and after a four week jury trial, the jury deliberated two days and found the department of transportation 43% at fault. The jury also found the driver 54% at fault and the passengers each 1% negligent. The jury awarded damages totaling $________, with $________ each going to the mothers of the deceased passengers and $________ going to the injured passenger.

The net verdict therefore totaled $________ each for the families of the deceased passengers and $________ for the injured passenger, for a total of $________. The parties had entered in to a pre-trial high/low agreement with a low of $2 million and a high of $9 million. As part of the agreement, the parties waived the right to appeal and agreed to pay the verdict within 30 days.

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