Congratulations to Partner Mike D’Andrea and Associate Caitlin Salata on their 12-0 defense verdict in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The jury came back Monday after a 7 day trial and rendered a defense verdict as to the only liability issue in the case.
This is a tremendous result and victory.
The suit involved a serious auto collision that occurred on February 17, 2019 in the early morning hours. Plaintiff was driving to attend church when he was struck by a drunk driver at a high rate of speed. Liability was not in dispute as to the intoxicated operator of the motor vehicle as multiple witnesses observed him running a red light and an open wine bottle was found in his vehicle. His BAC was .017 at the time of the collision and he plead guilty to felony DUI. Plaintiff brought suit against the driver, but also his mother, our client, for Negligent Entrustment. Plaintiff’s claim was that our client knew the driver was unfit due to a previous DUI and probation that occurred some time earlier. The defense argument was that while there was a prior issue with alcohol – it was many years prior to the subject accident– and there was no recent evidence of alcohol issues with the driver who later caused the collision. In addition, Mike and Caitlin presented evidence to the jury that the client believed the driver was sober for many years prior to the accident. Lastly, the defense team argued to the jury it would be unfair to hold a vehicle owner automatically responsible for a driver’s DUI with no knowledge of potential alcohol use for many years prior to the collision.
In closing arguments, Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award approximately 8.5 million dollars in damages against both the driver and his mother, the owner of the vehicle.
Obviously, this was a very difficult case given the DUI issues and the serious nature of the collision. Despite the uphill odds, the jury agreed with the defense as to the Negligent Entrustment claim and Mike and Caitlin secured a 12-0 defense verdict as to the sole claim against the owner of the vehicle.
Again, this is a tremendous result – congrats Mike and Caitlin!