DBBWC Obtains The Largest Automobile Personal Injury Verdict In California

On Dec. 6, a Sacramento County, California, jury returned a record personal injury verdict of $34.9 million for the personal injury and loss of consortium claims made by 56-year-old Debra Hackett and 63-year-old Bill Hackett of Galt, CA, against Silva Trucking Inc. of French Camp and Elaine McDonold, the semi operator.

Prelitigation, the defendants’ insurers failed to accept plaintiffs’ global demand of $5 million and over a year before trial, plaintiffs made a statutory offer in the amount of $12.5 million, which was also ignored by the defense.

Plaintiffs were represented by attorneys Robert BuccolaSteve CamporaRobert Nelsen and Ryan Dostart of Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora, LLP, and Eliot Reiner of Eliot Reiner, APLC.

On Oct. 11, 2010, Mrs. Hackett was driving her bus on Highway 12 when the defendants’ semi-truck/trailer combination crossed over into the oncoming lane, colliding with Mrs. Hackett’s bus, rendering her paralyzed from the waist down and resulting in a major closed head injury.

Following her acute care, Mrs. Hackett was transferred to a skilled nursing facility near her residence. Despite the good quality of nursing care and her three visits/stays per week at home, the Hackett family wanted Debra to reside full time in her home and to receive 24/7 LVN care as well as additional medical and rehabilitation services in her home environment.

Defendants suggested that the overall quality and consistency of plaintiff’s care would not be improved at home and argued that the level and extent of assisting care as requested was grossly exaggerated by plaintiffs in both breadth and cost. Also, defendants suggested that there was no real desire by anyone that plaintiff be allowed to return and live at home permanently as opposed to her current three visits per week. Mrs. Hackett’s medical and wage loss damages to date totaled approximately $1.2 million.

There was no evidence that the plaintiff continued to have physical pain or that she was depressed or anxious, but plaintiffs argued that she was nevertheless emotionally aware of her very serious limitations and was trapped in her body, requiring the constant assistance of others.

Following the verdict, plaintiffs’ attorney Robert Buccola told the Sacramento Bee, “She desperately wants to be home and is rejoicing now in the news she will be coming home.”

The verdict awarded $31.9 million to Debra Hackett and $3 million to William for his loss of consortium. The case was tried in front of Judge Judy Hersher in Department 45 of the Superior Court in Sacramento, California.

The verdict is the largest personal injury award ever in Sacramento County, exceeding the previously largest injury verdict of $24.3 million, a case also tried by Robert Buccola and Steven Campora in 2010.