$4,127,000: Suit Settled for $4,127,096.19 In Trucking Death Of Optometrist In Anaheim Hills

CASE DESCRIPTION:  Anthony S., under the influence of amphetamines and methamphetamine, was driving an overloaded dump truck with an attached trailer down the 12% steep grade on southbound Imperial Highway in violation of the local ordinances.  The truck had defective brakes.  Anthony S. ran a red light and struck the Chevrolet Blazer driven by Dr. Kenneth L., the plaintiff’s husband.  As a result of the collision, Dr. Kenneth L. died at the scene of the incident.

RESULT:  $4,127,096.19 total settlement

Mr. Kenneth L’s death occurred at the intersection of Imperial Highway and Nohl Ranch road at 7:29 a.m. on March 8, 2001, in Anaheim, California, when a tractor trailer barreled through a red light setting off a twelve car crash in front of an elementary school.  The action named as Defendants the Peterson Brothers Companies, specifically Peterson Brothers Construction, Inc., Precision Leasing, Inc., and PBC Pavers, along with their driver Anthony S.  Anthony S., the driver of the tractor trailer and is currently serving a one year prison sentence in Orange County Jail for driving under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the incident.  The suit also named Hanson Aggregates West who allegedly overloaded the tractor trailer and the City of Anaheim and the City of Orange who allegedly negligently designed Imperial Highway.

Extensive discovery conducted on behalf of the family demonstrated that the subject tractor trailer had only 15% braking power at the time of the incident while traveling down the 12% grade of Imperial Highway at Nohl Ranch Road.  Examination of Peterson Brothers Construction records showed that brake issues involving the trailer had been reported three weeks prior to the incident which were left uncorrected.  Expert testimony illustrated that the trailer had virtually no braking power at the time of the incident which caused the incident.  Discovery showed that Peterson Brothers Companies had been cited 24 times between April and December 2000, including five times for bad brakes and several for overloading their tractor trailers.

In the civil litigation, Plaintiffs took the deposition of the general manager of Peterson Brothers Construction, Peter M.  In that deposition, Mr. Peter M. disclosed that Anthony S. had tested positive for drug use of methamphetamine at this company on two occasions prior to the fatal day of March 8, 2001.  Specifically, Mr. Anthony S. tested positive for drug use on September of 1999 and November of 1999.   Despite such tests, Peterson Brothers construction placed the driver behind a commercial vehicle in January 2000.  Expert testimony established that the company did not follow the specific protocol set forth by the Department of Transportation that must be followed to place a drug offender in a safety sensitive function such as driving a 50,000 pound tractor trailer.  Plaintiff argued that such conduct would expose Peterson Brothers Construction to punitive damages at the civil trail originally set for June 23, 200.  Annie L., on behalf of the Estate of her deceased husband, war arguing her sincere belief that the danger to the public from deadly crashes caused by large trucks can never be curtailed unless responsibility is equally borne by the trucking companies themselves who are in the best position to protect the motoring public.

This case quickly came to a settlement with the Peterson Brothers Construction, Inc. accepting the brunt of liability. Their affiliate company Hanson Aggregates West was found to share in a small portion of liability.  Also the City of Anaheim and the City of Orange were found to share minimal liability in their design of the highway.

TYPE OF CASE:  Wrongful Death

INJURIES:  The accident resulted in the death of Dr. Michael L.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT:  On 3/8/01 at 7:29 a.m. at Nohl Ranch Road and Imperial Highway in Anaheim, California.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE:  Decedent – 53 at time of incident.

OCCUPATION:  Decedent – He was a preeminent optometrist in Orange County.

PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS:
Wylie A. Aitken & Christopher R. Aitken
AITKEN * AITKEN * COHN
For Plaintiffs – Annie L. & Estate of Dr. Kenneth L.

DEFENDANTS’ ATTORNEYS:
William Baumgaertner
HAIGHT, BROWN & BONESTEEL
For Defendant – Peterson Brothers Construction, Inc.
Robert  Shupe
SHUPE & REAGAN
For Defendants – PBC Pavers, Inc., Eldon & Kerry P., & Peter M.

Jeffrey Behar
FORD, WALKER, HAGGERTY & BEHAR
For Defendant – Hason Aggregates West, Inc.

Guy Gruppie
MURCHISON & CUMMING
For Defendant – Anthony S.


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