Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys Brian Panish, Dan Dunbar, Alex Behar and Matthew Stumpf obtained a $41,864,102 jury verdict and subsequent $46,000,000 settlement in a case involving a United States Air Force Captain who suffered catastrophic injuries after being struck from behind while on his motorcycle and then dragged the length of a football field and a half by a Southern California Gas Company truck. The parties agreed to a settlement of the case following the punitive damages phase of the trial, but prior to the jury’s verdict on those damages being announced.
“The winner in this case is the civil justice system, which again proved that disputes can be resolved by 12 members of the community. The Lo family will live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives,” said Brian Panish. “The settlement reached by the parties after the jury’s substantial verdict will enable this young couple to move forward, build a family and get Captain Lo the medical care he will need in the future.”
On the morning of February 13, 2017, Plaintiff Jason Lo was riding his motorcycle and stopped at a red light when he was struck by a Southern California Gas Company truck driven by a company employee. Defendant Dominick Consolazio claimed he had suffered a seizure immediately prior to and during the incident. Captain Lo and his motorcycle were pinned beneath the Southern California Gas Company truck, with his right leg forcefully pressed on the ground under the weight of the motorcycle. After the initial impact, the truck came to a stop in the intersection for 23 seconds. Mr. Consolazio then began driving again in an attempt to leave the scene — making a left-hand turn and driving towards the freeway onramp, all while dragging Mr. Lo approximately 436 feet beneath the vehicle. Mr. Consolazio was stopped by good samaritans, who blocked his path and he was arrested at the scene. He later pled to felony hit and run.
As a result of the collision, Captain Lo suffered massive, near fatal injuries to his right leg and lost approximately 40 percent of his blood. He was hospitalized for nearly a month with orthopedic and vascular injuries to his leg that required multiple surgeries in an effort to avoid amputation. Captain Lo’s leg remains severely disfigured and skin and muscle from other parts of his body have had to be removed in an attempt to rebuild his damaged limb. Captain Lo faces multiple additional surgeries in the future and amputation of his right leg remains a threat that must be monitored for life.
Despite prior knowledge of his epileptic condition, including his admission to suffering 10 prior seizures, including one six weeks prior to the collision, Mr. Consolazio continued to drive. Mr. Consolazio further admitted he suffered from “breakthrough” seizures, meaning they could happen without warning, at any time, and were unresponsive to medication. Further, Mr. Consolazio’s treating physician testified that she previously instructed him not to drive due to his dangerous medical condition.
Liability and the fact that Mr. Consolazio was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the collision were admitted to by the Defendants. At trial, the jurors were called upon to decide the amount of damages that Captain Lo and his wife were entitled to receive and whether Mr. Consolazio engaged in conduct that warranted the imposition of punitive damages.
Emotional testimony at trial highlighted the significant impact Captain Lo’s injury has had on his life and that of his wife, Nina, who he had married just six months prior to the collision and who is now expecting the couple’s first child. Once an extremely active athlete and competitor, witnesses at trial testified about how Captain Lo’s life had dramatically changed since he was nearly killed and has spent the last 20 months consumed by surgeries and other medical procedures.
Throughout the 27 day trial, the defense claimed that Captain Lo’s future medical expenses were millions less than what was being sought and that the loss of income resulting from his injuries was minimal. During closing arguments, Defendants argued that Captain and Mrs. Lo should only be awarded a total of about $9,000,000 in damages. Instead, the jury awarded Captain Lo $3,906,865 for past and future medical expenses, $957,237 for past and future lost income and $35,000,000 for past and future pain and suffering. Nina Lo was awarded $2,000,000 in damages for loss of consortium. The jury also found that punitive damages should be awarded, however, the parties settled the case for $46,000,000 before the jury’s verdict on those damages were announced.
“It has been a privilege to represent Captain and Mrs. Lo in their quest for justice,” said Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyer Dan Dunbar. “He has served his country honorably and deserves nothing less than being fully compensated for the horrific injuries he suffered. The jury’s verdict makes it clear that they agreed.”
Defendant Southern California Gas Company was represented at trial by Dana Alden Fox and Edward E. Ward Jr. of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP. Defendant Dominick Consolazio was represented at trial by Arthur J. Chapman of Chapman Glucksman Dean Roeb & Barger.