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Los Angeles County, California

This was a motor vehicle negligence action in which the disabled plaintiff contended that the defendant operator of the paratransit van in which he was traveling braked suddenly, causing the unbelted plaintiff to fly forward and strike his head on the dashboard, rendering him permanently quadriplegic. The defendant argued that the plaintiff had unbelted himself.

The 70-year-old male plaintiff was disabled due to a stroke he suffered in ________. As such, he was a passenger in a paratransit van operated by the defendant on July 13, ________. The plaintiff was seated in the rear seat of the van while it was traveling on the Ventura Freeway in rush-hour traffic. The plaintiff, who was unbelted at the time of the incident, was thrown forward when the van suddenly braked, striking his head on the dashboard.

The defendant’s van operator alleged that the van was only traveling at 3-5 miles per hour at the time he applied the brakes, however, a witness to the event who was traveling behind the van testified that the van had braked hard while traveling at approximately 15 miles per hour. The plaintiff had no independent recollection of the incident due to preexisting dementia. The plaintiff was rendered quadriplegic as a result of striking his head on the dashboard.

The plaintiff brought suit alleging that the driver of the paratransit van negligently failed to seatbelt the plaintiff and negligently braked hard in stop and go traffic, violating the defensive driving rules set forth in the defendant’s own guidelines. The defendant driver argued that he only braked lightly and that he had, in fact, seatbelted the plaintiff. The defendant argued that the plaintiff unbuckled his belt to retrieve a book or magazine from the floor and caused his own injuries. Further, the defendant disputed the witnesses’ account of the accident. The defendant also contended that the plaintiff himself stated to a social worker that he had unbuckled himself to retrieve a book from the floor of the vehicle.

After a five-week trial and three days of deliberations, the jury returned its verdict in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant. The jury awarded the plaintiff by a vote of 10/2 the sum of $________ which consisted of $________ in economic damages and $________ in non-economic damages. The jury apportioned liability at 50% to the plaintiff and 50% to the defendant. The parties resolved the claim, post-verdict for $________.

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