$16.4 Million Motorcycle Accident Verdict Against Caltrans

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75-Year-Old Woman Struck by Falling Tree Wins $16.4 Million Verdict Against Caltrans

Trial attorneys for Singleton Schreiber won a $16.4 million verdict on May 11, 2022, against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for their negligence in maintaining a tree that fell on a 75-year-old woman who was riding her motorcycle northbound on State Route 79 (SR-79) near Warner Springs on August 19, 2020.

Jane Neeley of San Diego County sustained life-threatening injuries from the incident, including paraplegia and fractured ribs, among other injuries. As a paraplegic, she will need care for the rest of her life. An infected branch of the tree hanging well over SR-79 fell to the ground as she rode underneath, crushing her in the roadway.

Fallen tree blocking road

Caltrans Admits Liability, Disputes Damages at San Diego County Motorcycle Accident Trial

Caltrans admitted in court documents that it was liable for the injuries. Parties agreed before the trial that the agency was responsible for “ownership and control of the roadway” but could not reach a settlement agreement due to differences over causation, damages, and “liability and affirmative defenses.”

In pre-trial court documents, the agency affirmed, “The State of California, Department of Transportation denies State Route 79 was a dangerous condition,” adding, “The State of California, Department of Transportation also contends it is not responsible for Plaintiff’s injuries because its failure to take sufficient steps to protect against the risk of injury created by the dangerous condition was reasonable under the circumstances.”

Recent Improvement Projects Overlooked Infected Tree

The tree’s trunk was located approximately 12 feet from the road, with its roots extending well under the roadbed and its branches well over it, on a section of SR-79 where recent improvement projects had occurred.

These projects, including constructing a drainage ditch near the tree and other road maintenance, directly contributed to the limb breaking loose from the tree and striking Neely. They subjected the tree to significant stress and left it vulnerable to infection.

In arguments submitted to the court in April 2021, Singleton Schreiber attorneys Brett J. Schreiber, Benjamin I. Siminou, and J. Domenic Martini argued that not only did an infection occur in the subject tree, ultimately causing the branch to fall, but also that the tree was compromised and unstable for a substantial period before the incident, and posed a “substantial risk of injury to members of the general public who drove on SR-79.”

They added, “The tree was compromised for long enough for Caltrans to have protected against its failure by removing the tree.”

Caltrans also conducted inspections and clearance procedures in the area around the tree in 2015 and 2019. Still, they failed to document its compromised position or take any steps to remediate the issue before the incident.

Top Government Negligence Attorneys

Ms. Neeley suffered a brain bleed, a burst spinal vertebra, multiple spinal fractures, and a shattered femur, amongst other injuries, but the $16.4-million award will go a long way toward helping her to enjoy her life in light of this tragic accident.

If you’re looking for an expert dangerous road accident attorney, motorcycle lawyer, or San Diego personal injury attorney, the experienced mass tort lawyers and personal injury attorneys at Singleton Schreiber are here to help. Our lawyers are experts in dealing with government negligence and claims against state and local government agencies.

View more of our case results or book your free consultation today.

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Trial attorneys for Singleton Schreiber won a $16.4 million verdict on May 11, 2022, against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for their negligence in maintaining a tree that fell on a 75-year-old woman who was riding her motorcycle northbound on State Route 79 (SR-79) near Warner Springs on August 19, 2020.

Jane Neeley of San Diego County sustained life-threatening injuries after An infected branch of the tree hanging well over SR-79 fell to the ground as she rode underneath, crushing her in the roadway.

 

Neeley suffered paraplegia and fractured ribs, among other injuries. As a paraplegic, she will need care for the rest of her life.

Trial attorneys for Singleton Schreiber won a $16.4 million verdict for Jane Neeley, the 75-year-old woman who was riding her motorcycle northbound on State Route 79 (SR-79) near Warner Springs on August 19, 2020 when a tree fell on top of her, crushing her in the road.