Los Angeles County Superior Court
Out of control semi truck goes over bridge rail

Case No.: 19STCV24786
Action Filed: 07/16/2019
Settlement Date: 09/20/2021
Plaintiff’s Counsel: James P. Carr, Esq. and Tyler J. Barnett, Esq. of Yuhl Carr LLP (Marina del Rey, CA)
Defendant’s Counsel: Helen Lemmon Alarcon, Esq., State of California Department of Transportation – Legal Division (Los Angeles, CA)
On January 9, 2018, at approximately 9:50 a.m., plaintiff Virgil Mortensen (56 years old) was operating a big rig tractor-trailer owned by his employer, Swift Transportation, in rainy and windy conditions on the elevated transition road from the northbound I-5 Freeway to the westbound SR-118 Freeway. Mr. Mortensen lost control of his rig and struck the right (north) concrete barrier and went over. 
There had been a prior impact at this same location on November 30, 2012. In response to that incident, Caltrans bolted on a metal beam to the barrier.  Plaintiff contended that the load bearing capacity of the concrete structure was significantly compromised from that prior crash and had Caltrans made sufficient repairs, plaintiff’s big rig would have been redirected back onto the highway without causing serious injury.  Defendant contended that the plaintiff was negligent in operating his rig and that the barrier was not created to withstand the crash of a semi truck at this speed and at this angle.  More specifically, Caltrans contended that an undamaged bridge rail would not have prevented this big rig from vaulting over the rail onto the roadway below, as demonstrated by full scale crash test data.
Mr. Mortensen suffered a traumatic brain injury and left sided hemiparesis resulting in wheelchair dependence. Defendant disputed the nature and severity of plaintiff’s injuries. Plaintiff alleged total future medical care costs of between $4,294,562 and $5,268,009. Plaintiff also alleged future earnings loss of between $212,122 and $591,120. All of his past medical bills were paid for by workers comp.  The workers comp lien totaled $2,729,848.78 (Indemnity: $86,883.68; Medical $2,615,312.02; Permanency: $27,653.08) and was resolved for $150,000 in exchange for a third party compromise and release.  The matter settled after multiple mediations for $6,750,000. 
Counsel for plaintiff was retained after the case rejected by prior retained counsel and after expiration of Government Code claim filing deadline. The Superior Court  granted plaintiff’s Petition for Relief after the State denied plaintiff’s Late Claim Application.
Plaintiffs’ Experts: Chuck Plaxico, PhD and Malcolm Ray, PE, PhD of RoadSafe LLC (accident reconstruction and structural integrity); Michael A. Lobatz, MD (neurology); K. Zaffarkhan, DO, FAAPMR (life care planning); Peter Formuzis, PhD (economics)
Defendants’ Experts: Michael E. Gold, MD (neurology); Ari Kalechstein, PhD (neuropsych); Thomas Garrick, MD (psychiatry); Mark Davidson, MD (internal medicine)
Mediator: Lars Johnson, Esq., Signature Resolution LLC