Twenty (20) day jury trial results in DEFENSE VERDICT for two construction companies. DUI driver loses control of his car striking construction equipment parked off the shoulder of the road killing two passengers and injuring a third. DEFENSE VERDICT for the two construction equipments. $8.5M total verdict for the plaintiffs.
Ronald Hatcher, Kathleen Hatcher, Teresa Hoff and Kayla Bean v. Bouchard
Communications, Inc., Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Services and Collin
COURT AND CASE NUMBER:
Ventura Superior Court / 56-2015-00472035-CU-PO-VTA
DATE OF VERDICT OR JUDGMENT:
Friday, May 17, 2019
TYPE OF ACTION:
Auto v. Auto, Wrongful Death
JUDGE OR ARBITRATOR(S):
Hon. Matthew Guasco
Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher as parents of adult decedent, Michael Hatcher.
Teresa Hoff as parent of adult decedent, Aimee Hoff.
Kayla Bean, age 21 at time of accident.
Bouchard Communications, Inc. – contractor performing work in the public right of way.
Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Services – sub-contractor hired by Bouchard Communications, Inc. to perform one aspect of the job in the public right of way.
Collin Powell, driver of the vehicle that struck the construction equipment killing Michael Hatcher and Aimee Hoff and injuring Kayla Bean.
TYPE OF RESULT:
Defense verdict as to the “construction defendants,” Bouchard Communications, Inc. and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Services.
Plaintiffs’ verdict as against defendant Collin Powell.
GROSS VERDICT OR AWARD:
Plaintiff Kayla Bean: Past: $500,000.00
Plaintiffs Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher: $2,000,000.00
Plaintiff Teresa Hoff: $5,000,000.00
Plaintiff Kayla Bean: $1,500,000.00
TRIAL OR ARBITRATION TIME:
JURY DELIBERATION TIME:
JURY POLLS: 12-0
Attorney for Plaintiffs Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher:
Scott Spell, Esq., LAW OFFICES OF SCOTT E. SPELL, APC, Los Angeles, CA
Michelle Iarusso, Esq., IARUSSO & DAGHER, Pasadena, CA
Attorney for Plaintiff Teresa Hoff:
John S. Levitt, Esq., SOLTMAN, LEVITT, FLAHERTY & WATTLES LLP, Thousand Oaks, CA
Attorneys for Plaintiff Kayla Bean:
Thomas M. Dempsey, Esq., LAW OFFICES OF THOMAS M. DEMPSEY, Beverly Hills, CA
Paymon A. Khatibi, Esq. , KHATIBI LAW, APLC, Los Angeles, CA
Attorney for the Defendant Bouchard Communications, Inc.:
Ninos Saroukhanioff, MARANGA*MORGENSTERN, Woodland Hills, CA
Attorneys for Defendant Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service
Matthew Haffner & Mary Haffner, HAFFNER LAW GROUP, Ventura, CA
Attorneys for Defendant Collin Powell
Thomas W. Shaver, Esq. and Tod Castronovo, Esq., SHAVER KORFF & CASTRONOVO, Encino, CA
Alvin Lowi, III, accident reconstruction
Allison Vredenburgh, PhD, human factors
Brad Avrit, traffic engineering/construction safety
Marvin Petruszka, toxicology
Ellen Shirman, PhD, neuropsychology
Timothy Reust, accident reconstruction
David Royer, traffic engineering and highway design
David Krauss, PhD, human factors
Russell Gish, PhD, accident reconstruction – not called to testify
Vina Spiehler, PhD, toxicology – not called to testify
FACTS AND BACKGROUND
On September 9, 2013, defendant Collin Powell was driving his Infiniti G35 on Potrero Road when he struck construction equipment that was being stored on the side of the road by defendants, Bouchard Communications, Inc. and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service killing two of his passenger, Michael Hatcher and Aimee Hoff and injuring a third, Kayla Bean. Mr. Powell admitted to drinking 9 to10 shots of vodka and traveling at a speed of 65 mph prior to the crash. He was charged criminally with two counts gross vehicular manslaughter and one count of causing bodily injury while under the influence. He pled guilty to these offenses after the accident and was sentenced to prison.
In 2015, Mr. Hatcher’s parents, Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher along with Ms. Hoff’s parent, Teresa Hoff and Kayla Bean filed wrongful death and personal injury actions against Bouchard Communications, Inc., and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service for improperly parking their construction equipment in the County of Ventura right of way and Collin Powell for motor vehicle negligence. The complaints sought compensatory damages against defendants. At trial, Mr. Powell’s negligence was decided by the court on a motion for directed verdict after the close of evidence.
Plaintiffs argued the “construction defendants” Bouchard Communications, Inc. and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service were negligent in parking their construction equipment in the County of Ventura public right of way and for failing to properly and adequately warn the motoring public of the hazard. Plaintiffs further argued that the negligence of the “construction defendants” was a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs’ harms. As to Mr. Powell, plaintiffs argued that while Mr. Powell was already found negligent by the court his negligence was not a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs’ harms because but for the construction equipment being on the side of the road the plaintiffs’ decedents would have survived and Ms. Bean would not have been injured or her injuries would have been less.
Counsel for defendant Mr. Powell joined in plaintiffs’ arguments on liability.
The “construction defendants” denied any and all negligence for the accident and further argued that any negligence was not a “substantial factor” in causing plaintiffs’ harms. Rather, it was the sole negligence of Mr. Powell coupled with the comparative fault of plaintiff Ms. Bean and decedent Michael Hatcher that were the cause of this accident.
INJURIES AND OTHER DAMAGES
Plaintiffs Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher made a claim for the wrongful death of their adult son, Michael Hatcher.
Plaintiff Teresa Hoff made a claim for the wrongful death of her adult daughter, Aimee Hoff.
Plaintiff Kayla Bean claimed a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and pain and suffering.
Prior to trial, the “construction defendants” made statutory offers to compromise to the wrongful death plaintiffs, Mr. & Mrs. Hatcher and Ms. Hoff which were rejected. During trial, high/low offers were made to the wrongful death plaintiffs, Mr. & Mrs. Hatcher and Ms. Hoff which were rejected. At trial, Mr. & Mrs. Hatcher asked the jury to return a verdict in the amount of $7,000,000.00 against the construction defendants solely. Ms. Hoff asked for a verdict in the amount of $10,000,000.00 against the construction defendants. And, Ms. Bean asked for a verdict in the amount of approximately $2,000,000.00.
The jury began deliberating on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. The jury returned a verdict on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 3:30 p.m. finding that while the “construction defendants,” were negligent their negligence was not a “substantial factor” in causing plaintiffs’ harms. Thus, a complete defense verdict was obtained on behalf of the “construction defendants” Bouchard Communications, Inc. and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service.
As against defendant Collin Powell, the jury awarded plaintiffs Mr. & Mrs. Hatcher the sum of $2,000,000.00 for the wrongful death of their son, Michael Hatcher. The jury awarded plaintiffs, Ms. Hoff the sum of $5,000,000.00 for the death of her daughter, Aimee Hoff. And, the jury awarded the sum of $1,500,000.00 to plaintiff Kayla Bean for the past economic damages and past and future non-economic damages.