Panish Shea & Boyle LLP Obtains $20 Million Settlement for Man Paralyzed in San Diego Bicycle Incident
Attorneys Tom Schultz, Deborah Chang and John Shaller of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP and Richard L. Duquette of the Law Firm of Richard L. Duquette obtained a $20,000,000 settlement for a San Diego County bicyclist and his wife after the man suffered C2-C3 quadriplegia as a result of riding his bicycle into an unmarked, unattended, and undetected open construction trench in the City of San Diego. The incident occurred despite the fact that both the State of California and the City of San Diego had previously promulgated plans to increase biking and promote biking safety.
“Unfortunately, this type of tragic incident occurs more often than people think whenever construction crews and cities do not adhere to the standards set forth by the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices that specifically address open trenches and bicycle safety,” said Mr. Schultz of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP.
On the morning of December 8, 2017, Plaintiff Sheng “Sam” Du, a 52-year-old Software Architectural Manager for devices at Verizon, was riding his bicycle to work in the southbound bicycle lane of Sorrento Valley Road when he unexpectedly came upon a two-foot wide, one-foot deep open trench that extended 20 feet from the curb, across the bicycle lane and into the roadway. Due to the position of the morning sun and the lack of proper warnings, traffic control devices and personnel on site, the trench was undetectable from the pavement and shadows on the roadway to a bicyclist. As a result, the front wheel of Mr. Du’s bicycle suddenly went into the ditch, causing him to flip over his handlebars and crash head-first onto the pavement. Mr. Du was rendered unconscious by the impact and suffered catastrophic and permanent injuries, including quadriplegia, which will require the former avid cyclist to receive around-the-clock care for the rest of his life.
Mr. Du and his wife sued the City of San Diego, KTA Construction and Harris & Associates, Inc. for their negligence by creating a dangerous condition on Sorrento Valley Road. An avid bicyclist who had been riding bicycles since the age of ten, Mr. Du enjoyed riding his bicycle to work frequently for healthy exercise and because of the obvious benefits to the environment. After the incident, his family contacted Richard L. Duquette, a San Diego attorney and avid bicyclist who has promoted bicycle safety throughout his career. Panish Shea & Boyle LLP attorneys Tom Schultz and Deborah Chang were thereafter retained as trial counsel.
“Without question, the strength of our case centered on the amazing strength, courage, and dignity of Sam Du, and his wife Linda and their two daughters,” said Ms. Chang. “The love, devotion and optimism they displayed truly affected and motivated all of the attorneys in this case like nothing I have ever seen before.”
Defendants entered into a $20,000,000 settlement agreement with Plaintiffs with $1,500,000 to be paid by the City of San Diego, $4,250,000 from KTA Construction, and $14,250,000 from Harris & Associates, Inc.
The settlement was reached following two mediations with private mediator, Robert Tessier, and a third mediation before the Honorable Timothy Casserly in Vista, California who worked throughout the day and into the evening to get the settlement done. The settlement became final April 22, 2019, following approval by the San Diego City Council.
Defendants were represented in the case by Michael C. Rogers of Balestreri Potocki & Holmes, A Law Corporation, and City Attorney Reyna Stephan for the City of San Diego; Dana A. Fox for KTA Construction; and Harris & Associates, Inc. by Brian K Stewart and Christie Bodnar Swiss.
Panish Shea & Boyle LLP has extensive experience representing bicyclists who have been injured as a result of negligently maintained roadways in California. In September 2017, the firm obtained a $6.5 million settlement for client Peter Godefroy who was legally riding his bicycle in the City of Los Angeles and was unnable to avoid a large pothole in the road. Mr. Godefroy was forced to ride over it and lost control of his bicycle, causing him to fall to the ground. As a result of the accident, the 56-year-old cyclist suffered severe injuries including a traumatic brain injury as well as numerous broken bones throughout his body. Despite the high presence of pedestrian and a bicyclist traffic in the area and the negligently maintained roadway, there were no warning signs alerting the public of this dangerous condition.