Severe injuries to family in DUI accident; $20 million. Los Angeles County.


DUI driver crosses center line in SUV and collides with family's sedan, causing severe injuries.  Minimal policy limits, but litigation for bad faith against insurer has commenced.

The Case

  • Case Name: Cardona v. Cortes
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / MC023925
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, June 15, 2015
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, November 30, 2012
  • Type of Case: DUI Accident
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. John J. Kralik
  • Plaintiffs:
    Jose (welder), Irene (homemaker), and Eduardo Cardona
  • Defendants:
    Navarro Cortes
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $20,968,903
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    100% against defendant Cortes.

  • Economic Damages:

    Jose Cardona: $4,609,828

    Irene Cardona: $1,790,075

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Jose Cardona: $9,525,000

    Irene Cardona: $4,450,000

    Eduardo Cardona: $600,000

  • Punitive Damages:

    The jury deadlocked on the punitive damage issue, which was dismissed with prejudice by plaintiffs during deliberations to avoid a mistrial.

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 13 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    R. Rex Parris Law Firm by Alexander R. Wheeler and Jason P. Fowler, Lancaster.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Yee & Belilove LLP by Steve Belilove, Pasadena.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Thomas Vangsness, M.D., Los Angeles.

    H. Ronald Fisk, M.D., Los Angeles.

    Vernon Williams, M.D., Los Angeles.

    Jeffrey Shaeffer, Ph.D., Los Angeles.

    Ann Barnes, Pasadena.

    Tamorah Hunt, Ph.D., Santa Ana.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Robert Wilson, M.D., Beverly Hills.

    Arthur Kowell, M.D., Encino.

    Gene Bruno, Encino.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Daniel Voss

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    A traffic collision occurred on February 6, 2011, near the intersection of 47th Street East and Ft. Tejon Road (also known as SR-138) in Palmdale, causing severe injuries to plaintiff family members.

    The Plaintiffs, Jose Cardona (59 at the time, driving), Irene Cardona (53 at the time, front passenger), and their son Eduardo Cardona (22 at the time, back passenger) had just made a left-hand turn onto 47th Street East. They were driving southbound when defendant Galdino Cortes, who was drunk and driving northbound on the same street, lost control of his SUV, crossed over into the Cardonas’ lane of travel and collided head-on with their sedan. Plaintiffs’ biomechanics expert testified that at impact defendant Mr. Cortes was traveling approximately 50 mph and Mr. Cardona was travelling between 15 and 20 mph.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant drove negligently while under the influence, causing multiple, serious injuries to plaintiffs.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant admitted liability, but contested the nature and extent of the plaintiffs’ injuries and the value of their losses. 

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    During the crash, Jose Cardona suffered multiple, severe fractures to his legs, including an open right ankle fracture and fractures to both knees. On the evening of the crash, the trauma surgeon had to remove Mr. Cardona’s talus bone and repair a fibula fracture. Two days later, the same surgeon repaired meniscus tears and severe fractures in Mr. Cardona’s right tibia and both patellas. Mr. Cardona has not been able to walk on his own (he walks short distances with a walker, and travels longer distances with a wheelchair), and he has not been able to work a single day since the crash. Even with assistance, Mr. Cardona still suffers from pain and fatigue while walking. Mr. Cardona also suffered a tear of his rotary cuff in his right shoulder. While there were no outward signs of a head injury, and Mr. Cardona had a Glascow Coma Scale of 15 at the scene, doctors identified cerebellar damage several years later. As a result, Jose now suffers from headaches, tremors, slurred speech, dizziness, anxiety, depression, unpredictable mood, loss of concentration, and memory problems. Jose has also been experiencing worsening dysarthria, which causes him facial numbness, tingling, and difficulty swallowing. Jose has never made a full recovery from any of his injuries and must now rely on a wheelchair or wheeled walker to move around.

    During the crash, Ms. Cardona suffered a complex fracture of the bones deep within her right wrist. She had an open reduction internal fixation surgery the day after the crash. While the bones fused, Ms. Cardona’s intense pain in her wrist never went away. She had the hardware from the surgery removed in October 2014. Several of Ms. Cardona’s treating doctors, as well as the defense neurologist have diagnosed her with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in her right wrist, which plagues her daily with intense, throbbing pain. She also suffered numerous abrasions on her legs and chest, and a head injury that causes persistent headaches and blurred vision. The defense neurologist agrees that Ms. Cardona suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash. Since the crash, the pain in Irene’s wrist has extended to include her right arm and her right shoulder. The pain is debilitating, and sometimes has become so extreme that it causes Irene to lose consciousness.

    During the crash, Eduardo sustained a rupture of his abdominal wall that caused internal bleeding. Eduardo also suffered lacerations on his chest, bruising on his legs, swollen ankles, and anemia due to blood loss. He was rushed into emergency surgery where he underwent a laparotomy and surgical repair of a complex abdominal wall hernia. Following the surgery, Eduardo suffered an intestinal blockage that had to be resolved with a second procedure. Eduardo has a large, permanent scar on his stomach, and he still experiences abdominal pain. Eduardo was in the hospital for six days after the crash. He was in trade school at the time of the crash, and had to drop out to recover. He eventually went back to school, graduated, and has been working full time since 2012. On the weekends, he cares for his parents.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $5,499,999
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $30,000 policy limit (offered after demand had expired, per plaintiff counsel; see additional notes).

Additional Notes

Per defense counsel:

For Jose sought at closing: future loe-$347,740; loe-216,730; future meds and care-$8,682,597; pain and suffering-$24,300,000 for a total of $33,547,067.

For Irene at closing no loe; future care and treatment-$5,450,183; pain and suffering $10,600,000 for a total of $16,050,183.

For Eduardo no evidence of future care or treatment or loe – left to the jury.

Per Plaintiff Counsel:  A bad faith action against the insurer, QBE, has commenced and plaintiff is now represented by insurance bad faith counsel.  Plaintiff contends that policy limits were opened up when insurer failed to offer the policy limits until well after the plaintiff's policy limit demand had expired.