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The Sacramento & Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm obtained a $450K settlement for a roofer who broke both of his feet because a crane operator failed to properly place trusses on the second story of the building.
Elk Grove-based attorney John O'Brien recently obtained a $4.25 million jury verdict in Alameda County on behalf of an injured construction-site worker. The case was tried to a jury before the Honorable Victoria Kolakowski. The 27 year veteran laborer, was injured while working on a road widening project in the City of Roseville. He was struck in the back of his knee by the blade of a skip loader being operated by an employee of the general contractor for the project, DeSilva Gates Construction, LP.
The injured worker pursued a negligence theory against DeSilva Gates and the driver of the skip loader. DeSilva Gates, in turn filed a cross complaint against the injured worker’s employer for express indemnity. The worker suffered injuries to his knees, right shoulder, neck and low back. Prior to trial he had three surgeries to treat his various injuries and there was testimony by his treating physicians that he would likely need a lumbar fusion, two knee replacements and a series of epidural steroid injections in his neck.
As a result of his injuries, the worker (age 52) was permanently disabled from working as a construction laborer. Although the defense contended that his injuries were due, in large part, to pre-existing degenerative conditions in his joints and spine, the jury disagreed and awarded him all the damages requested by Mr. O'Brien during closing argument.
Our client suffered significant injuries in bus roll-over accident in Nairobi, Kenya. Our client was a 26-year-old woman traveling abroad. She booked her trip through a nationally recognized travel agent and trip coordination company. The bus that crashed was operated by this company abroad. Despite the difficulties in trying to hold a company responsible for conduct that occurred in another country, we took on the case. The roll-over accident took place in an isolated area outside of Kenya due to a tire blowout. Three people were killed, and our client suffered multiple fractured ribs, fractured pelvis requiring surgical reconstruction and internal bleeding requiring surgical repair.
The defense argued that there was no liability because the driver encountered a sudden emergency and did nothing wrong despite the tragic outcome. Our Sacramento & Elk Grove-based attorney, John M. O'Brien found evidence of shoddy maintenance leading to the tire blowout and also countered with the fact that the driver fled the scene immediately afterward without providing aid to any of the injured victims. The defense also argued that the terms of the travel company’s “booking conditions” contained a forum selection clause in Sydney, Australia that would force the case to move to that location or that the federal court here would have to apply Australian law, which is considerably less favorable on damages than California law. We argued that the clause was unenforceable because the booking conditions did not accompany the original contract but were simply “made available online.” The case resolved at mediation for a confidential sum before the court ruled on this jurisdiction and choice of law issue.
In December 2013, the Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm settled the claims of three injured passengers aboard a Greyhound bus that crashed near Fresno. The clients suffered injuries ranging from a broken pelvis, broken leg and torn shoulder ligaments, to facial lacerations and soft tissue neck and back injuries. The case resolved at mediation collectively for all three clients for $1.3 million.
In April 2016, the Sacramento & Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm settled a cyclist versus automobile case. Our client, a 35-year-old female tri-athlete was on a training ride on the American River bike trail in Sacramento. As she approached the trail's intersection with Del Paso Blvd., she slowed but did not stop, thinking that any approaching traffic on Del Paso would stop. Every other crossing on the American River bike trail, except this one, requires vehicular traffic to stop. This was the first time the client had been to this intersection on the trail. As she entered the crossing, a car struck her at 35 mph, causing a severe injury to her left lower leg. She had two reconstructive surgeries on the leg.
We resolved the case against the vehicle driver for his policy limit. We then sued the City and County of Sacramento alleging that the intersection is dangerous because it is treated differently than every other crossing on the bike trail. The case was difficult from a liability perspective because our client admitted that she did not stop for a stop sign on the bike trail and there was no stop sign for vehicular traffic. However, we argued that this is the only place on the bike trail’s numerous traffic crossings where vehicular traffic does not have a stop sign and cyclists do. In fact, the American River Bike trail is 32 miles long and has 12 crossings open to public vehicle traffic. Del Paso Blvd. is the only place where vehicular traffic does not stop, and in fact, at every other location on the trail stop signs for cyclists have been removed. In addition, the signpost warning motorists of the trail crossing was missing when the accident occurred. The view is also obstructed by foliage and other topography, making the duty to stop Del Paso traffic even more important. In addition to arguing our client’s comparative fault, both the City and County argued that trail immunity barred their liability. The case settled against the City and County at mediation for a confidential sum.
In January 2016, the Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm settled a case for the parents of a deceased 22-year-old exchange student from China. On April 10, 2014, the student was riding his bicycle on the way to class at San Marcos College in Southern California when he came to a stop at a busy intersection. When the crosswalk light turned green for him to proceed, he started across the intersection. At the same time, a cement truck immediately to his left was preparing to a make a right hand turn across the crosswalk. The driver of the cement truck was looking to his left to clear traffic before initiating the right-hand turn against a red light. In that same moment, the light turned green, and our client started across. The cement truck driver either never looked to his right or simply could not see our client in his blind spot as he started his turn. The truck struck and killed our client about 6 feet from the curb.
The responding investigators from the local sheriffs’ department concluded that the accident was our client’s fault despite multiple eyewitness testimony to the contrary. In what was clearly a biased conclusion based on favoring a local business over a foreign student, the officers concluded that our client was not paying attention when he crossed “in front of the truck” and was wearing ear buds and riding his bike in a crosswalk in violation of local ordinances. After entering the case, we established that the truck driver initiated his right-hand turn without looking to see if the crosswalk was clear and that the student cyclist was not at fault in causing the accident. The case resolved for the defendant’s insurance policy limit of $2 million.
In February 2015, the Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm settled a trucking accident case for the family of a man who was killed when his car was rear-ended by a semi-truck driver.
While approaching the intersection where our client was stopped for a red light, the truck driver was distracted.
He never slowed and hit the rear of our client’s pick-up truck at 40 mph.
The pick-up burst into flames and our client was killed instantly. The truck driver was prosecuted and served time for involuntary manslaughter. The case resolved against the trucking company for its insurance policy limit of $2 million.
In January 2012, the Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm started trial against a trucking company in a case involving the wrongful death a 20-year-old man who was riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by a close friend, who was also killed. The driver of the semi-truck blew a tire. Instead of waiting for assistance on the side of the highway, he decided to execute an illegal u-turn across Highway 152 near Gilroy.
With no warning and insufficient sight distance for oncoming traffic, the driver was sprawled across the road in the middle of the u-turn when our client’s car hit the trailer at 60 mph and submarined under the side, killing both front seat occupants and severely injuring an occupant riding in the back seat. The case settled right before opening statements for $2.5 million for each injured victim or their families.
The Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm settled a wrongful death claim for $2.5 million against a major trucking company on behalf of the family members of a man who was killed in a collision caused by a truck driver's negligence.
On September 9, 2015, at approximately 5:54 a.m., plaintiff was heading to work on northbound Highway 33, a two-lane highway with the north and south lanes separated only by a solid yellow line.
He was driving his 1998 Plymouth Breeze.
The collision occurred as plaintiff approached Lemon Avenue, which intersected Highway 33 to the east. Highway 33 is uncontrolled at Lemon Avenue and thus southbound traffic yields to northbound traffic prior to making a left turn onto eastbound Lemon Avenue. As plaintiff approached Lemon Avenue in the northbound lane, a southbound driver slowed his vehicle to yield to plaintiff, coming from the opposite direction, prior to executing a left turn onto Lemon Avenue. As the other driver came to a stop, he was violently struck from behind by a large International Flatbed truck at over 50 mph. The driver of the International never slowed or even touched his brakes. The southbound car was struck with such force it was thrown into the northbound lane directly in plaintiff’s path. The closing speed of the two vehicles as they collided head-on was likely more than 90 mph. The southbound driver was pronounced dead at the scene, and our client was transported from the scene via ambulance with significant and permanent injuries.
Plaintiff suffered injuries to his wrist, shoulder, neck and low back. He underwent bilateral lumbar medial branch blocks at L3, L4, and L5, followed by a right shoulder surgery with a rotator cuff repair and biceps tendonotomy and subacromial decompression. Months later, he had to undergo a right wrist surgery to repair a complete scapholunate ligament dissociation. Two years after the initial collision, he also had a 3 level disc replacement surgery in his neck and a decompression surgery in his low back.
The case went to trial in Modesto on May 30, 2018, and was consolidated with the wrongful death action of the driver of the southbound car against the driver of the International and the company that employed him. The wrongful death case was tried first. After a substantial verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the wrongful death action, defendants agreed to settle our case for $2.1 million. Prior to trial, defendants’ highest offer was $750K.
On March 13, 2017, at approximately 9:30 p.m., a California Highway Patrol officer was on routine patrol on State Route 104 west of the town of Ione in Amador County, California.
The officer observed a set of tail lights in an area of fields and ponds (water-filled clay mining pits) north of the highway, and upon further investigation discovered a vehicle partially submerged in one of the ponds. Our client was unconscious and unresponsive in the vehicle.
While on State Route 104, a short distance east of Dutschke Road, plaintiff’s vehicle struck a cow that had wandered onto the roadway. After striking the animal, his vehicle veered to the left, off the roadway, through a fence, and into the pond where it was found. The ensuing collision with the cow destroyed plaintiff’s car and almost killed him.
We filed suit against the owner of the cow, an adjacent landowner and rancher, who had let his fencing deteriorate to the point where his livestock could easily escape onto the rural highway. Plaintiff thankfully made a full recovery from his injuries and the case resolved short of trial for $400K.
This tragic case involved the death of a 23-year-old New Mexico native who was coming home from work on I-25 just north of Santa Fe at about 11:46 p.m. on September 24, 2016. Plaintiff was traveling north on Highway 25 in the #1 lane. Unknown to him, an extremely intoxicated 43-year-old woman had entered the freeway going the wrong way. She was hurtling towards him at 75 mph, going southbound in the #1 northbound lane. The ensuing collision was catastrophic and both cars were destroyed on impact. Plaintiff and the intoxicated, wrong-way driver both died at the scene.
The intoxicated driver’s insurance plus plaintiff’s underinsured motorist limits were all tendered. During the course of investigating the case, we learned that a popular bar in Santa Fe had served the obviously intoxicated woman until she nearly passed out. Video of her time in the bar and witness interviews revealed that the bartender took her keys and gave them to another patron, who had also been drinking after the patron promised to drive her home. He left her in the car with the keys in the ignition while he stopped at a convenience store for more beer. The woman woke up, got in the driver’s seat and drove away. 20 minutes later, she killed our client. Despite dram shop liability protections, the bar paid its insurance policy limit of $1 million because of the bartender’s foolish decision to let another drunk patron take responsibility for the woman.
The third and final aspect of the case was against the department of transportation for the State of New Mexico. Public entities in New Mexico have limited liability. However, if it can be shown that the DOT was negligent in the maintenance of its roadway, it has liability up to a maximum of $750K. We, along with our extremely able local counsel in New Mexico, were able to establish that the wrong way driver likely entered the freeway that night at an off-ramp that had a history of fooling intoxicated, wrong-way drivers into using it as an on-ramp. Another family was killed in 2006 when a driver entered the freeway going the wrong way in this same vicinity. Consequently, we argued that the state was aware of this danger and that it should have taken steps to prevent another tragedy like this through the use of better and more prolific warning signs, and an early warning system triggered by the entry of a wrong-way driver. This part of the case settled during trial for $450K and a promise by the state to deploy the early warning system favored by plaintiff’s experts.
This case arises out of a high-speed, rear-end motor vehicle collision that occurred on December 5, 2014 in Vacaville, California. Plaintiff was injured when his 1999 Honda Accord was struck at a high rate of speed by a 2011 Dodge Ram 5500 Tow Truck. The injuries sustained in the collision ultimately caused plaintiff, who was only 29 years old at the time, to require a sacroiliac joint fusion surgery, in addition to more conservative measures such as sacroiliac joint injections, lumbar facet blocks, lumbar epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, and radiofrequency ablation. Although the eventual surgery was a success, plaintiff continued to suffer from symptoms related to the incident and will require future medical treatment. The case eventually settled at mediation for $900K.
In 2012, Sacramento & Elk Grove-based attorney John M. O'Brien obtained a $430K jury verdict in Sacramento Superior Court on behalf of a 46-year-old woman injured in an auto accident. The case was tried to a jury before Judge Brian Van Camp.
The plaintiff struck a car which was making a left-hand turn. The defendant, a 20-year-old woman, admitted that she made the left-turn although she couldn’t see into the plaintiff’s lane. The defendant was insured by Allstate with a $100K policy. Mr. O’Brien offered to settle for the policy limit three different times on behalf of his client.
After the crash, the plaintiff complained of chest pain, shortness of breath, spinal and left hip pain and was taken to the emergency room. After seeing several doctors, she discovered she had suffered a herniated disc requiring surgery. One year later, she had the herniated disk surgery which was a complete success. After the surgery, Allstate offered the policy limit, but Mr. O’Brien declined.
Mr. O’Brien took the auto accident injury case to trial. After a full day of deliberations, the jury came back at $430K and apportioned 20% of the fault to the plaintiff.
Allstate appealed the decision, and after more than three years, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision and upheld the jury’s award. In February 2016, more than five years after she was initially injured, our client finally received the justice to which she had been entitled to for so long.
Sacramento & Elk Grove-based attorney John O'Brien obtained a policy limit settlement in an automobile accident case for a woman with a herniated disc that required surgery.
The Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm tried a case in Butte County in July 2015 on behalf of a 26-year-old man who was injured in a broad side car accident. The client suffered a low back injury but the defendant’s insurer refused to tender its policy limit of $100K and instead offered $20K to settle the matter. After a 10-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict of $156,846.16, and the court awarded our client all of his trial costs for a total verdict in excess of $180K.
In May 2015, the Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm resolved a case for a man injured in a rear-end auto accident. The client suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and the case resolved for $750K.
The Sacramento & Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm obtained $4 million in settlements for local landowners against a public entity for diminution in property values related to adjacent landfill.
Elk Grove-based John O'Brien obtained a $2.3 million jury verdict against an obstetrician for the wrongful death of a 33-year-old mother who died during childbirth.
In December 2015, the Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm settled a case against a well-known national lube, oil and filter franchise for elder abuse and negligence. Our client was a 93-year-old World War II Navy veteran and took his car to the Quick Lube for an oil change. While he was there, the salesman at the franchise “upsold” our client a brake flush. However, instead of performing a full brake flush as promised, the franchise simply performed a “suck and go,” which means the fluid was not completely bled from the system, it was merely drained from the main reservoir and replaced. Unfortunately, this introduced air into the brake lines. Within a few days after leaving the franchise, our client’s brakes failed, and he ran into a stopped car at 40 mph. He fractured his sternum and two vertebrae in his low back. He suffered horribly for the next two months and eventually succumbed to his injuries. We filed a lawsuit against the quick lube franchise alleging wrongful death and financial elder abuse.
During discovery, we hired an investigator to secretly videotape the employees of the franchise performing similar services in a negligent and shoddy manner. Employees were caught on tape doing the same fraudulent service to the investigator’s vehicle. When this evidence came to light, the case was settled for a confidential sum.
Sacramento & Elk Grove-based personal injury lawyer John M. O'Brien obtained a $600K settlement for a plasterer who fractured his low back after falling from a defective plank used for scaffolding.
Plaintiff was a 21-year-old male who was severely injured on a towable inflatable on the San Joaquin Delta near Tower Park Marina in Lodi, California. He was being towed by a family friend operating a personal water craft.
It was a windy day and the inflatable lifted off the water and flew sideways into the levy bank. Plaintiff suffered multiple lacerations, brain injury, fractures, a collapsed lung, and permanent facial paralysis.
The case was set for trial against the tube manufacturer and the operator of the personal water craft. The Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm contended that the tube was defective because it lifted off the water in windy conditions and contained no warnings as to a minimum weight or number of riders necessary to prevent that condition from occurring.
The manufacturer defended on the grounds that the tube would not take flight under any conditions regardless of the wind, number or weight of the riders. We refuted this claim with a wind tunnel study. The manufacturer also contended that the accident was solely caused by the negligence of the operator who was towing plaintiff too close to the rocky shoreline at 20 mph in a windstorm. The operator only had a $50,000 insurance policy. The case settled on the eve of trial for $1.45 million.
Sacramento & Elk Grove-based attorney John O'Brien obtained a $4.5 million settlement in a complex, medical product liability case.
In February 2016, the Sacramento & Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm tried a case against a general contractor who installed a cement median on a busy city street in a commercial district without installing the required reflectors or warning signs and without ensuring that such temporary measures were in place for more than a week.
In this case, our client was a 63-year-old woman who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam more than 35 years ago. At least twice a month, she would drive to a local Vietnamese specialty foods store to stock up on her favorite foods. Unbeknownst to her, the defendant contractor built an 18-inch high concrete center median in the suicide lane where she was used to making a left turn into the market. The contractor ignored the plans for the project and common safety practices by neglecting to put up any temporary or permanent reflectors, cones or warning signs of any kind to alert the motoring public that an obstacle was now in the center turn lane.
Our client hit the center median at approximately 40 mph on a moonless night with no visibility. The impact destroyed her car, and she was taken to the hospital with a sternal fracture, multiple rib fractures and two burst fractures in her thoracic spine. She was admitted to the hospital and remained at U.C. Davis for five days. The contractor defended the case on the grounds that even without the required reflectors and warning signs our client should have seen it and taken evasive action. We countered with the fact that in the span of fewer than 36 hours 3 other vehicles struck the median, in the same manner, resulting in their total loss. At trial, we sought not only compensatory damages but punitive damages against the contractor for failing to take any precautions to protect the motoring public despite being contractually obligated to do so. The case settled during trial for $550K.
Plaintiff was an 83-year-old woman who was suffering from the early onset of dementia when defendants involved plaintiff in a risky real estate transaction that resulted in plaintiff's eventual default of a $500K interest-only mortgage on her primary residence and threatened foreclosure. Elk Grove-based attorney John O'Brien filed a lawsuit against a nationally prominent real estate broker and mortgage company alleging financial elder abuse. The case was mediated before Retired federal judge Raul Ramirez and was settled for $400K.
Plaintiff was blinded in one eye and suffered multiple facial fractures when a 3-pound steel hose cap blew off under pressure, striking him directly in the face.
Plaintiff was in the process of unloading hot wax from his tanker truck at a customer facility in Richmond.
He had no way of knowing that a supervisor at the facility had pressurized the line by hooking it to an air compressor before plaintiff was ready. When plaintiff went to secure the line to the customer tank for offloading, the air pressure blew the hose cap off with tremendous force directly into his face.
Plaintiff suffered multiple facial fractures and legal blindness in his right eye. We hired a graphics expert to prepare exhibits showing plaintiff’s injuries for use at the mediation, and later at trial, if necessary. As a result of his multiple injuries, plaintiff alsolosthis commercial driver’s license and had to find work in anotherfield. After more than a dozen depositions of eyewitnesses and company employees responsible for safety at the site, the case resolved at mediation for $3 million.
Plaintiff suffered significant, life-altering injuries when she fell to the ground from the foot of a defective hospital bed. She sat on the edge of the bed while visiting a sick relative. The foot of the bed collapsed due to a defect well known to the manufacturer. Plaintiff fell awkwardly onto her tailbone which began an odyssey of injuries and treatment over the next three years consisting of injuries to her neck, shoulder, back, and knee. In addition to more conservative treatment measures, she had to undergo epidural steroid injections, medial branch blocks, radiofrequency ablations, occipital nerve blocks and three different surgical procedures - a cervical discectomy and fusion at C4-6, a lumbar discectomy and fusion at L4-5 and a rotator cuff and labrum repair of her shoulder.
We pursued the case against the manufacturer and the care facility where the bed was located on theories of strict liability for a design defect and negligence. We were able to develop evidence of prior bed failures as well as evidence that the manufacturer knew of the defect and had created a fix for it but never provided it to customers. The case resolved shortly before trial for a confidential sum.
We represented the client in an auto accident case where she was hit by a driver who was arrested at the scene for driving under the influence of drugs. Our client suffered a broken right heel in the accident. The case resolved for $200K.
Sacramento & Elk Grove-based attorney John O'Brien represented a man rendered quadriplegic (paralyzed) in a shooting. He obtained a judgment of $7 million against the responsible party.
The Sacramento & Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm's client was a 19-year-old college student who suffered a severe hand injury when an ATV in which he was a passenger rolled over at an off-road terrain in Sacramento. The driver of the ATV was an inexperienced 18-year-old female friend who had never operated a powerful ATV before. The ATV owner permitted his teenage son and his friends to take the ATVs to the terrain park with no supervision, no training and no concern whether any of them were capable of operating the vehicles safely.
As the driver pulled to the top of a short rise, she turned hard left to follow the dirt path and to avoid a boundary line fence. She turned too sharply, and the powerful ATV rolled over to the right. In the process, our client’s right hand was crushed, and three of his fingers were amputated. His remaining two fingers, his index finger, and thumb were badly fractured, and he endured multiple surgeries to treat both the amputation and fractures.
The case settled pre-litigation for the defendant’s insurance policy limit of $1 million.
Our client was injured at a shooting range in Escalon, California. He was walking away from the shooting area when the person next to him fired a Weatherby rifle at a target downrange. The rifle exploded and shrapnel caused a retinal injury to our client’s right eye. The force of the shrapnel actually shattered his safety glasses. Our Sacramento & Elk Grove-based attorney asserted claims against the shooter, who it turns out was using reloaded ammunition against the manufacturer’s warnings, and the manufacturer itself for product liability. Although our client suffered some loss of visual acuity, he essentially made a full recovery from the initial injury. The case settled at mediation for $130K.
Sacramento & Elk Grove-based personal injury lawyer John M. O'Brien obtained a $2 million policy limit settlement for a man who was severely injured at a work site in Modesto.
The Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm obtained a $1.4 million jury verdict in federal court against Wal-Mart in a falling merchandise case.
In March 2016, the Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm settled a case against a big box store on behalf of a man who suffered a torn biceps tendon when a falling barbecue grill struck him at Home Depot. He went to the store to buy a new grill and asked a young female associate for assistance in obtaining the grill from an upper shelf. After locating the grill he wished to buy, the associate moved a portable staircase to the high shelf where the grills were stored. As she struggled with the heavy item, our client moved forward to help her. In the process, the associate dropped the 100-pound grill from a height of approximately 12 feet directly on our client. The impact of the falling merchandise ruptured his biceps tendon requiring a surgical repair. The case settled for $225K shortly after the complaint was filed.