Man with cerebral palsy not properly secured in transportation van, suffers severe spinal injuries
Personal Injury - Negligence
Personal Injury - Spine Injury
Los Angeles County Superior Court
The Plaintiff, suffering from cerebral palsy since he was an infant, was being driven home in a van specially designed to transport disabled persons. The driver of the van failed to properly secure the Plaintiff's wheelchair and, while making a sharp left turn, the force of the turn flipped the Plaintiff's wheelchair over, causing the Plaintiff to land on his head.

Plaintiff was an 18 year old severely disabled wheelchair bound victim of cerebral palsy.  While being transported by Defendant from school to a day care facility, the driver slammed on the brakes and made a sharp turn to allegedly avoid a left turning vehicle in front of the van.  As a result of the driver failing to properly secure Plaintiff's wheelchair to the van, Plaintiff’s wheelchair flipped over in the van.  Because the Plaintiff had cerebral palsy, he was totally unable to protect himself and landed on his head, severely injuring his neck, and fracturing his nose.  Plaintiff ultimately underwent surgery to repair his neck, but due to the severe curvature of his neck, the first surgery was unsuccessfully as the bone graft failed to union, requiring a second surgery that was successful but compromised Plaintiff's already limited airway.  Due to the high risk of choking, Plaintiff required round-the-clock semi-skilled nursing to ensure no further disruption to his airway.

With respect to liability, the Defendant claimed a phantom driver that purportedly swerved in front of the van was at fault, and that the driver did secure the wheelchair but even despite doing so the forces of the unavoidable sudden stop and sharp turn overcame the restraint system.  

On damages, Defendant disputed the need for the cervical surgeries, claiming theywere not caused  by the accident but the progressive nature of the cervical deformities secondary to Plaintiff’s cerebral palsy.  Defendant also denied the reasonableness and causation for a life care plan costing $4 million over Plaintiff’s lifetime.  Defendant further claimed that given Plaintiff’s severe disability and inability to communicate verbally, he did not suffer the substantial emotional distress or physical pain claimed by Plaintiff in seeking general damages. This aspect of the case was made even more complicated due to the fact that the Plaintiff would not be able to directly tell a jury how he felt or describe the pain he was experiencing.

The case proceeded to trial and on the third day of trial, the Defendant agreed to settle the matter.  This was an important case in establishing that even Plaintiffs with severe disabilities are entitled to their full measure of damages.