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$________ Products Liability/Single vehicle accident - Spoliation of evidence by automobile insurance carrier - Head injury - Coma - Severe and permanent injuries.

County withheld, California

This action arose out of a single vehicle accident which resulted in severe head injuries to the female plaintiff front-seat passenger, age 16 at the time. The plaintiff was age 20 at the time this case was resolved. A negligence claim was brought against the defendant driver of the vehicle for failing to maintain control of the car.

Products liability claims were asserted against the manufacturer of the car. Suit was additionally filed against the automobile insurance carrier for the defendant driver, alleging negligent and intentional spoliation of evidence.

The subject action occurred in late ________. The plaintiff was a 16-year-old belted passenger in a vehicle being driven by her boyfriend. The two were traveling to Palm Springs for a high school holiday banquet.

The defendant driver, who was also 16 years old, allowed the vehicle’s driver’s side tires to enter the median on Highway ________. The defendant driver then steered to the right, bringing the car back onto the paved roadway, lost control and spun counterclockwise before leaving the right shoulder and rolling several times. The California Highway Patrol speed-from- skid specialist concluded that the vehicle was traveling at 79 mph as the vehicle moved back onto the paved roadway from the median.

The defendant driver, who is 5 feet 11 inches tall, walked away from the rollover with minor scrapes and bruises. The plaintiff, who is 5 feet 2 inches tall, sustained a right cerebral concussion, temporal lobe contusion with epidural and subdural hematoma, temporal lobe laceration with a skull fracture, a vertical fracture through the temporal bone and associated peripheral right facial palsy, and a delayed left frontal epidural hematoma. Upon arrival at the emergency room, the plaintiff had a Glasgow coma score of 4. She remained in a coma for four days.

The plaintiff underwent emergency surgery on the day of the accident.

She underwent a right-sided frontal temporal craniotomy and evacuation of the subdural and epidural hematoma, as well as decompression of the lacerated, swollen temporal lobe with partial lobectomy. She also underwent a left-sided craniotomy frontal for the epidural hematoma.

The plaintiff missed the spring semester of her junior year of high school, but attended her senior year and graduated with her class.

Regarding her products liability claims, the plaintiff asserted that the vehicle’s roof structure and seat belts were defectively designed and/or manufactured, thereby resulting in excessive roof crush, causing the plaintiff’s head and neck injuries. The plaintiff was relying on ________+ photographs and a videotape taken of the vehicle at the defendant insurance company’s storage lot to show the alleged defects.

With regard to the defendant insurance carrier, the plaintiff alleged that this defendant was liable for negligent and intentional spoliation of evidence (by permitting the subject vehicle to be destroyed). The plaintiff alleged that a fax sent by the plaintiff’s initial attorneys and the verbal request by the investigator created a duty for the defendant insurance company to preserve the vehicle. The plaintiff asserted that the absence of the vehicle substantially impaired the plaintiff’s ability to prove her products liability claims.

As against the defendant driver, the plaintiff alleged negligence in failing to maintain control of the vehicle and in traveling at an excessive rate of speed.

The plaintiff claimed that she requires lifetime assisted care, lifetime medical care and vocational rehabilitation. The plaintiff contended that prior to the collision, she intended to become a physician, like her mother. The plaintiff contended that as a result of the accident and her residual injuries, it was highly unlikely that she would become a doctor or a lawyer as she had anticipated.

@TITLEHD = DEFENDANTS’ CONTENTIONS The defendant automobile manufacturer denied that the vehicle was defective and specifically maintained that the plaintiff could not establish her claims without the vehicle. The defendant insurance company denied ever receiving a written or telephone request by plaintiff’s initial counsel to preserve the subject vehicle. The defendant insurance company also contended that the subject vehicle was not defective and that the crush injury to the vehicle was attributable to the force of the impact due to the high rate of speed at which the car was traveling when it left the road. The defendant insurance company also contested the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and alleged associated needs. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s employment potential was not affected by her injuries.

The defendant automobile manufacturer settled for $________ at the first mediation in July of ________. The defendant driver settled for $________ policy limit following the first mediation in July of ________.

The defendant insurance company settled for $________ as the case approached its scheduled trial date.

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