Verdict Reached After Trial in Zero Offer Case
San Diego, Calif. (June 23, 2014) – Following a four-day trial, the Honorable Larry H. Burns, United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of California has rendered a verdict totaling $5.4 million in damages against the United States Government in favor of motorcyclist John B. Hendrickson, whose severe injuries due to a collision with an on-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent resulted in a leg amputation. The Court awarded over $6.3 million, apportioning fault 85% to the U.S. Government and 15% to Hendrickson, for a net verdict of nearly $5.4 million.
Attorneys Robert J. Francavilla and Angela Jae Chun of San Diego-based CaseyGerry represented Hendrickson, a 50-year-old recording engineer, in a personal injury action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for a collision caused by Border Patrol agent Ryan Moore on Otay Mountain Truck Trail (OMTT) in August 2009. “During the five years of litigation leading up to the trial, the government denied responsibility for Hendrickson’s injuries and refused to engage in settlement negotiations,” Francavilla said. “This was a zero offer case heading into trial, and we are pleased justice has been served after all these years. The verdict acknowledges the responsibility the government has to do its job safely and protect the public.”
According to Francavilla, the crash happened on OMTT, an unpaved mountain road with multiple blind turns and unprotected drop offs. Border patrol agent Moore – who worked out of the Chula Vista station – was driving a government issued Chevy Silverado westbound on the OMTT toward Hendrickson, who was riding his motorcycle in the opposite direction. Moore sped through a 90-degree blind turn on a narrow road and collided with Hendrickson, who was approaching the curve on the other side, causing him to fall off his motorcycle and suffer debilitating injuries. “As a result of the collision, my client’s severely broken leg ultimately had to be amputated,”Francavilla said.
“Based on the evidence, the Judge determined that Moore was the major cause of the collision, as he was operating his vehicle at a speed too fast for the conditions and failed to yield the right of way,” Francavilla explained.
In addition to his left leg amputation, Hendrickson also suffers from ongoing migraine headaches, stump pain, phantom pain, difficulty using his prosthesis and lack of concentration – requiring extended therapy. “This verdict sends a clear message that motorcycle riders have a right to safety on our roads too; and that if any driver – whether an individual citizen or a representative of the federal government – carelessly injures a rider, that driver will be held accountable.”
Hendrickson, a longtime motorcyclist and Chula Vista resident, is eager to raise awareness about motorcycle safety and has underscored the importance of watching out for bikers when on the road, especially as increasing numbers of people ride motorcycles. “Motorists should always look out for motorcyclists and give them plenty of extra room – as even a minor collision with a motorcycle can have devastating consequence,” Hendrickson said.
This is the second time in six months that CaseyGerry has prevailed against the U.S. government on behalf of a motorcyclist. In both cases, the government denied any responsibility.