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Land O’Lakes to Pay $6.45 Million for Injuries From 2009 Auto Accident

by Jason W. Armstrong, Daily Journal

A Kings County Superior Court jury late Tuesday awarded a 55-year-old former prison guard $6.45 million for debilitating injuries he suffered when his motorcycle plowed into a truck making an illegal turn.

“Panish Shea & Boyle partner Kevin Boyle said his firm rejected Land O’Lakes’ offer to settle for $2.5 million before trial. ”

The panel’s award to Robert Crenshaw against the truck’s owner, Minn.-based dairy giant Land O’Lakes Inc., marked the largest civil judgement ever in the central California county, according to attorneys involved in the case.

The county’s previous record verdict was $1.6 million earlier this year.

“This verdict will allow Mr. Crenshaw to live out the rest of his life with dignity,” said Brian Panish, name partner with Los Angeles’ Panish Shea & Boyle, who represented the plaintiff. “The jury did a great job of recognizing the seriousness of his injuries.”

Land O’Lakes’ lawyer, Lawrence E. DeWitt of Fresno’s Petrie, Dorfmeier & Morris, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The accident at the heart of the case occurred on July 20, 2009, when Crenshaw slammed head-on into a truck as it turned against a red light at Kansas Ave. and State Route 43 in an unincorporated area near Hanford. Crenshaw’s motorcycle landed across his left leg when he hit the ground, and he suffered dozens of broken bones and fractures across his body.

He had to quit his 16-year job as a guard at nearby Corcoran State Prison, and doctors said he would never be able to return back to that line of work, according to court papers.

Crenshaw sued Land O’Lakes and the truck driver, Bradley R. Smith, for negligence in Aug. 2009, seeking compensation for past and future medical expenses, loss of earnings, past and future pain and suffering damages and the cost of his destroyed motorcycle and other property.

Land O’Lakes and Smith ultimately admitted liability in the case, according to the company’s filings, so the sole question before jurors was how much in damages to award. Panish ended up dismissing Smith from the case and pursuing damages solely against Land O’Lakes.

Panish Shea & Boyle partner Kevin Boyle said his firm rejected Land O’Lakes’ offer to settle for $2.5 million before trial. Of the $6.45 million the jury awarded Crenshaw after the seven-day trial before Judge Thomas DeSantos, the panel awarded $1.35 million for future medical costs, $329,000 for past medical expenses, $1.3 million for future earnings loss, and $111,000 for past earnings loss.

The verdict also comprised $2.5 million for future pain and suffering, $750,000 for past pain and suffering, $87,000 for loss of Crenshaw’s ability to operate his household, and $5,000 for property loss.

Boyle said jurors seemed to be swayed by Crenshaw’s testimony, as well as video of Crenshaw the defense shot in its investigation into the plaintiff’s injury claims.

“We played it as part of the plaintiff’s case,” Boyle said. “It demonstrated how disabled he really was.”

The case is Crenshaw v. Land O’Lakes, Inc., 09C0254 (Kings County Super. Ct., filed Aug. 2009).

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