SETTLEMENT : Plaintiffs struck freeway guardrail, which broke and caused injuries
On March 30, 2002, Alina Dima, 27, and Nick Malone, 18, were riding passenger in a sedan being driven by Scott, Lechuga, 31, on the southbound lanes of U.S. 101 Freeway in San Fernando Valley when he lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle collided with a guardrail which, due to the force of the impact, separated the metal top from the bottom wooden posts. The separated metal segment transformed into a type of blade that sliced through the vehicle’s driver’s side door and resulted in major injuries to all three of the occupants.
The metal guardrail segment severed Lechuga’s left leg below the knee and sliced through the bone just above the ankle on his right foot. Doctors would later be able to successfully reattach the right foot but Lechuga was left with a prosthetic for his other leg. Dima was also struck directly by the guardrail which fractured her left tibia and injured her right knee. Malone, who had been sitting in the rear seat, was not directly hit by the guardrail and suffered only minor injuries related to the collision.
Dima, Malone, and Lechuga hired Richard B. Koskoff of the Law Offices of Booth and Koskoff to represent them in a lawsuit against the general contractor that constructed and installed the guardrail assembly in question as well as the subcontractor that supplied the guardrail wooden posts. The Plaintiffs sued on basis of products liability, negligence, and the creation of a dangerous condition of public property.
The Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that when the guardrail tore away from its wooden posts, the tension on the metal component increased and caused it to slice like a blade through the vehicle. They further asserted that the wooden posts should never have fractured and because they did it was an indication that the wood was unsound and of a low grade.
The Defense brought forth certifications of compliance seeming to indicate the posts complied with the governing standard specifications as set in place by the CalTrans manuals, but the Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that those certifications were issued without a complete and thorough inspection of the wood in question.
The Defense further maintained that the cause of the accident and the injuries that resulted were solely the fault of Lechuga’s reckless driving style. They cited the deposition of several witnesses who made statements listing him as traveling at speeds of 80 mph and weaving in and out of traffic.
Ultimately, the Plaintiff’s counsel secured a beneficial settlement on behalf of the three occupants. The case settled in their favor for the sum of $1,385,000 to be distributed among the three Plaintiffs according to the severity of their injuries.