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La Paz County, Arizona

In this motor vehicle negligence action, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were negligent in the operation of a sand rail/dune buggy in which each of the plaintiffs was a passenger. As a result, the plaintiffs were ejected from the vehicle sustaining life altering injuries. The defendants argued comparative negligence.

This litigation arose out of a rollover accident that occurred on May 18, ________. The plaintiffs, Derek H., Robert E., Chrisa E. and Marinda H., were riding as passengers in a SPCON Sand Rail owned by the defendant Tim M. and being driven by the defendant Brian M. According to the plaintiffs, while driving the vehicle in excess of 45 miles per hour, the defendant driver veered onto an unpaved road and lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle then struck a manhole; catapulting the vehicle into a nearby light pole and chain link fence.

Due to the impact, all of the unbelted passengers were ejected from the buggy and sustained severe injuries. The belted passengers sustained far less severe injury. Overall, injuries included trauma to the head and various bone fractures including neck and spine injury requiring fusion surgery. The most severe of the injuries was that suffered by the plaintiff, Robert E., who sustained traumatic brain injury resulting in moderate to severe cognitive-linguistic impairment, difficulties with episodic and semantic memory, and mood disorder.

After the impact, witnesses testified that the defendant driver intended to flee the scene, but ultimately remained. Police later questioned the defendant driver as to whether he had been consuming alcohol. Although the defendant driver denied that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, he later submitted to a breath test which revealed a reading of.________ breath alcohol content. In addition, the defendant driver failed a battery of Field Sobriety Tests and subsequent blood tests determined his blood alcohol level to be over twice the legal limit.

As a result, the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit contending that the defendant driver was negligent in his operation of the vehicle insofar as he should not have left the paved road. In addition, the plaintiffs argued that it was the driver’s responsibility to ensure that his passengers were properly belted in the vehicle. Moreover, at his deposition, the defendant driver admitted that he had not checked on his passengers prior to the incident.

Insofar as the defendant driver admitted that he was speeding and lost control of the vehicle, causing the accident, the defense argued comparative negligence. Specifically, the defendants alleged that the plaintiffs were significantly to blame for their own injuries due to the fact that they were also intoxicated at the time of the accident and failed to fasten their safety belts. In support of this argument, the defense submitted evidence indicating that the passengers consumed several mixed drinks and beer during the five hours preceding the incident. In addition, the defendants presented undisputed evidence that all the three passengers that were in the back of the SPCON Sand Rail were unbelted. In so proving, the defendants claimed that the plaintiffs’ injuries would have been minimal, similar to the two front belted passengers, if they had used their seat belts.

After two mediations, this matter was resolved shortly before trial in favor of the plaintiffs for $________ (policy limits).

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