Permissive use/negligent entrustment claimed after DUI crash. $111,000 verdict. San Diego County.
Alcoholic adult son takes car while his parents are in Arizona. After DUI crash, plaintiff passenger sues parents for negligent entrustment.
- Case Name: Jenkins v. Tarbet, et al.
- Court and Case Number: Superior Court of San Diego, North County Civil Div. / 37-2013-50265-CU-PA-NC
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, November 03, 2014
- Date Action was Filed: Friday, May 24, 2013
- Type of Action: DUI Accident
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Earl H. Mass
Plaintiffs: James Jenkins, 37
Defendants: Jasen TarbetChristopher Joslyn, step-father of defendant Tarbet
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $111,000
Award as to each Defendant:
Total judgment was entered for plaintiff for $159,350 as follows: $94,350.00 (jury verdict less plaintiff’s comparative of 15%); because of the default against Tarbet, Judge Mass awarded an additional $40,000 for attorneys fees per CCP §1021.4 and punitive damages of $25,000.00 since Tarbet was convicted of felony DUI for his wrongful conduct.
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: Tarbet: 79%, Christopher Joslyn: 6%, plaintiff: 15%.
Past Medical: $25,000
Future Medical: $26,000
Past general damages: $30,000
Future general damages: $30,000
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 4 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days.
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Law Offices of Daniel S. Rosenberg, P.C. by Daniel S. Rosenberg, Vista.
Tamez Law Group, LLP by Steve Gnau, San Diego.
Attorney for the Defendant:
Law Office of Richard Guido by Michael SanFilippo, San Diego (for defendants Christopher and Vicky Joslyn).
Thomas / Lucas by Stanley A. Calvert and Timothy Lucas, San Diego (for Jasen Tarbet after trial only).
Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Sanjay Ghosh, M.D., neurosurgery, La Jolla.
Abdallah Farrukh, M.D., neurosurgery, Lancaster.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
Defendant driver Jasen Tarbet, a 33-year-old man, was in between sober living facilities at the time of the subject incident. Defendant Tarbet had a long history of drugs and alcohol abuse. Defendant Christopher Joslyn and Vicky Joslyn are Jasen Tarbet’s step father and mother, respectively.
Plaintiff, James Jenkins, a 37-year-old man, was Jasen Tarbet’s traveling companion at the time; plaintiff also had a history of alcohol abuse. Plaintiff was sober until 2008 when his father passed away. Plaintiff was previously injured in a prior motor vehicle collision in 2007 in which he sustained a traumatic brain injury.
Tarbet and Jenkins were staying at a sober living facility in Colorado when they decided to come back to a sober living facility in San Diego. Defendant Christopher Joslyn paid for Tarbet’s bus ticket and plaintiff Jenkins used his disability income. Upon arriving in San Diego, Tarbet and Jenkins were denied access to the sober living facility in Oceanside, California. Tarbet called his stepfather, defendant Christopher Joslyn who granted Tarbet permission for both Tarbet and Jenkins to stay at the Joslyn’s residence for a few days until they could get into another sober living facility. The Joslyns were on vacation in Arizona at the time.
Upon arrival to the Joslyn residence, Tarbet began drinking out of his parents’ fully stocked bar, which contained a large amount of hard alcohol. Tarbet had also taken prescription medications that belonged to someone else. Plaintiff had a few shots of vodka and fell asleep on the couch for several hours. A few hours after plaintiff fell asleep, Tarbet continued to drink and then woke up plaintiff to go to Tarbet’s friend’s house. Tarbet drove Christopher Joslyn’s Tacoma. He veered off the road and crashed into a private residence. Tarbet was convicted of driving under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol.
The Joslyns disputed any Permissive Use to Tarbet at the time of the collision, claiming Tarbet took the Tacoma without permission. The Joslyns claimed that Tarbet was only allowed to drive their vehicle with expressed permission over the many years before this collision. The evidence at trial showed that Christopher Joslyn allowed Tarbet to drive the same truck approximately one month before this collision, while Tarbet's license was suspended, for the purpose of picking up a water hose for him.
Tarbet and the Joslyns testified at trial that Tarbet did not have permission to drive the Tacoma at any other time before or after the collision. However, Tarbet admitted he has driven his parents’ various other vehicles on many occasions prior to the incident without his parents’ knowledge or permission but that his parents would always find out that he had taken their vehicles later. Tarbet acknowledged there were no consequences to his actions and that his parents would not do anything to stop this pattern of conduct. The Joslyns denied this ever occurred. All of the defendants maintained that there was no permission for the current occasion.
The Joslyns also denied that Tarbet had any knowledge that they kept a set of spare keys in the laundry room even though they had kept it there for over 8 years and Tarbet had lived with them at various times on and off during this period of time. Tarbet testified during trial that he was aware of where the spare keys were kept.
Vicky Joslyn (mother of defendant Tarbet) testified during her deposition that the moment her son, Tarbet, drove away with the Tacoma, that their “housekeeper,” “Corey,” had called her and advised her that Tarbet had left with the Tacoma. Vicky also testified at deposition that Corey had informed her that both Tarbet and Jenkins smelled like alcohol when they left. During trial, Vicky recanted her testimony and stated it was not until the next day that Corey had told her Tarbet smelled like alcohol when he drove away.
Christopher Joslyn testified during his deposition that he was present at the time Vicky received the call from Corey. He testified that the call came in during the afternoon. During trial, Christopher recanted his testimony stating that the call did not come in until later that evening.
During the litigation, the Joslyns claimed that they did not know Tarbet’s address or whereabouts. Just one week before trial, they were able to produce Tarbet for his deposition and for trial.
At trial, Tarbet admitted he was liable for the collision.
That defendant Mr. Joslyn had given permission by words or conduct and that Mr. Joslyn also negligently entrusted the vehicle to Tarbet.
As to his contributory negligence, plaintiff Jenkins alleged that he had permission to be in the Joslyn’s residence. Also, that defendant driver Tarbet continued drinking while plaintiff was asleep for several hours after a 15-hour bus ride from Colorado; that he was unaware how intoxicated Tarbet had become. That Tarbet woke him up and said he needed to go to a friends house and that his father, Christopher Joslyn, said it was okay to for Tarbet to drive the vehicle.
Defendants contended that Jasen Tarbet took his father’s truck without permission. The Joslyns claimed that they had no duty to call the police despite believing their son was intoxicated and did not have permission to use the vehicle. The Joslyns contended that just because they gave permission for Tarbet to be in their house while they were away, that did not lead to a conclusion they were responsible for his actions of driving the Tacoma without their permission.
Defense argued that because plaintiff failed to wear the recommended back brace after the accident, that vertebroplasty was not necessary and that the L2 fracture would have healed on its own had Jenkins worn a back brace. The Josylns also disputed the need for future treatment and surgery.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
After the collision plaintiff was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital and was diagnosed with an L2 fracture. About 6 weeks later, plaintiff underwent a vertebroplasty at Tri City Medical Center. As a result of the collision, plaintiff also sustained several broken ribs, laceration to his forehead, and neck pain. Medical bills were paid by Medicare in the amount of $30,483. Plaintiff claimed future treatment including a discectomy of the low back for a herniated disk at L5-S1.
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $299,999
- Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $500,000 policy limits
- Defendant Final Offer before Trial: At settlement conference one week before trial, defense offered $10,000.
SanFilippo and Nationwide did not represent defendant driver Tarbet all the way through trial because they claimed there was no coverage because there was no permissive use either express or implied. After the jury found permissive use and negligent entrustment, Nationwide assigned Lucas to represent Tarbet post verdict.
Before Trial, the defense filed a Motion for Summary Judgment - Denied.
Defense also filed a Motion to Sever liability from Damages - Denied.
During Trial, the defense moved for non-suit to Vicky Joslyn because she was not on title to vehicle - Granted.
Plaintiff moved for directed verdict against Tarbet for liability and causation - Granted.
Attorney Michael San Filippo contended the 6% liability apportioned to his client Christopher Joslyn reduced his client's liability only for $3,600 in the general damages. The court sided with plaintiff’s legal analysis of the judgment that because Christopher Joslyn negligently entrusted Tarbet, that he was jointly and severally liable for the general damages as well as the special damages. Nationwide, who insured the Joslyns, assigned attorney Timothy Lucas after the trial to represent Jasen Tarbet and filed a motion to set aside the default on behalf of Tarbet. Christopher Joslyn filed a motion to tax costs. Before the motions were heard, Nationwide agreed to pay $149,350.00 ($94,350 for the verdict, $15,000 in costs, $40,000 attorneys fees and plaintiff waived the $25,000 for punitive damages against Tarbet.)