Verdict: $9.8 Million | El Dorado County | Bray v. Hoelscher
Following a three-week trial, an El Dorado County jury returned a $9,860,630.86 verdict in favor of Plaintiff Carly Bray. Ms. Bray lost her right leg on March 1, 2012 when a driver lost control of her vehicle and careened into an El Dorado Union High School District bus stop. The Defendant was on her way to high school when she lost control of her SUV and slid into the bus stop, striking and pinning plaintiff against a utility guy-wire, resulting in a traumatic amputation of plaintiff's right leg just below the knee. Plaintiff filed suit naming the driver, the school district, and the County of El Dorado as defendants. Plaintiff alleged that the school district was liable for negligent placing the school bus stop on the outside edge of a high speed curve and that the county was liable for the dangerous condition of the curve on Pony Express Trail immediately east of the bus stop due to its irregular superelevation (banking). Prior to trial, plaintiff settled with El Dorado Union High School District for $4,500,000.00 and County of El Dorado for $560,000.00.
Defendant denied responsibility and claimed that the school district and county were solely liable for plaintiff's damages because of the negligent placement of the school bus stop on the outside of county's dangerous curve. At trial, Defendant also contended she lost control of her vehicle while traveling only 20 to 25 miles per hour due to the undisputed snowy and icy roadway conditions. Defendant's expert traffic safety engineer testified that the intersection where the bus stop was located has an accident rate at least three times higher than similar intersections statewide and that the accident history provided notice to the county and school district that the bus stop needed to be moved long before the subject accident occurred. Plaintiff conceded that the school district bore some liability for the bus stop placement but argued that the irregular banking was typical of most rural roads in the Sierra foothills and was not a cause of the subject accident.
Plaintiff argued that, due to the loss of her right leg, she was no longer able to participate in the physical activities she enjoyed before the accident including competitive volleyball, horseback riding, hiking, snowboarding, and swimming. Plaintiff also contended that her injuries limit her future earning potential because she is no longer able to pursue her dream career as a registered nurse even though she has yet to begin nursing school. Plaintiff asked the jury to award future lifetime medical and prosthetic care for her injuries, as well as support services due to her inability to physically manage household chores as she ages.
Following three weeks of evidence the jury deliberated for two days before finding that the defendant driver was liable for causing Plaintiff's injuries and apportioned fault as follows: 50% defendant driver; 45% El Dorado Union High School District; and 5% County of El Dorado. The jury awarded a total of $9,860,630.86.
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