A Confusing Malibu Restaurant Exit and a Confused Tourist Combine to Cause a Fatal Accident Along the PCH

In any personal injury case, there may be facts that make you feel good about your case and other facts that make you pessimistic. If you’ve been hurt in an auto accident, the key, as a layperson, is simply to recognize that you’ve suffered harm and to contact experienced California counsel about your rights and potential for recovery. Sometimes, even very challenging facts may not be “deal breakers.” Recently, one motorcyclist’s family was able to hold a restaurant owner partly to blame in court (Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. SC112366) for a California motorcycle accident that happened outside the bounds of the restaurant’s property.

The case began with a tourist’s ill-fated visit to an oceanside restaurant. After Terry, a tourist from Oklahoma, left the Malibu restaurant, he turned left because he desired to go north on the PCH. Unfortunately, there was a median barrier in that part of the PCH, and traffic leaving the restaurant was only allowed to access the southbound lanes of the highway. What Terry had done was turn northbound onto the southbound lanes of the highway. Joseph, a southbound motorcyclist, made a desperate attempt to avoid Terry’s vehicle. In the process, Joseph fell off his bike and died from his injuries.

Looking at this case, you might think that Joseph’s family only had a case against Terry. Joseph’s parents’ legal team realized, however, that the blame for this fatal motorcycle accident went beyond just the misguided tourist. The exit from the restaurant parking lot onto the highway was unclear, which meant that it was foreseeable that a customer might become confused and turn the wrong way onto the highway. Since such an accident was foreseeable, that meant the restaurant was potentially liable for harm occurring as a result of the exit’s confusing nature, even though the actual incident took place outside the bounds of the restaurant owner’s property.

Based upon this legal theory, the parents of Joseph sought to hold both the driver and the restaurant liable for Joseph’s fatal injuries. In pursuing a claim for wrongful death or personal injury, you may have to pursue your case through multiple steps. Joseph’s parents had to go through the trial court, the court of appeal, and back to the trial court to pursue their case against the restaurant. Once their case was back in the trial court, the parents had to choose whether to litigate or offer to settle. The parents made a statutory offer of settlement to the restaurant in the amount of $1 million, and a $125,000 offer to the tourist. Neither one accepted.

At the end of the trial, the jury issued a verdict for the plaintiffs and an award of $5 million in non-economic damages. The tourist was 50% at fault, the restaurant 35%, and Caltrans 15%. These numbers were significant, not just because they represented a significant recovery for the parents, but also for their relationship to the parents’ statutory offers of settlement. Under California’s settlement statute, if a plaintiff makes a qualifying offer, a defendant does not accept that offer, and the plaintiff ultimately receives a damages award larger than the settlement offer amount, the plaintiff is entitled to an award of certain fees. As a prevailing party, the plaintiff is already entitled to certain litigation costs, but expert witness fees are generally not among those. The settlement statute says that, in the circumstance outlined above, a plaintiff may recover the expert witness fees incurred after the date of their settlement offer. This can be a significant financial benefit in some cases.

Your auto accident case may contain many twists and turns, and it may have facts that seem very bleak in terms of your chances for success. Don’t assume you cannot succeed; instead, reach out to the experienced San Mateo fatal motorcycle accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos. Our lawyers have been helping injured drivers, passengers, and pedestrians for many years. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Keeping Out Privileged Information in Your California Vehicle Accident Case, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 20, 2017

California Appeals Court Reinstates Jury Verdict in Favor of Injured Motorcyclist, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Feb. 16, 2017