Punitives in freeway DUI case. $152K jury verdict. Los Angeles County.


Drunk driver rear-ends another car on freeway at 2 a.m. Moderate injuries. Plaintiffs beat their 998 offer.

The Case

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $152,220.23
  • Economic Damages:

    $3,849.83 - Adam Lawrence

    $15,370.40 - Gabriel Blanco

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $40,000 - Adam Lawrence

    $43,000 - Gabriel Blanco

  • Punitive Damages:

    $25,000 - Adam Lawrence

    $25,000 - Gabriel Blanco

  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiffs beat their §998. Defendant to pay plaintiffs' costs, pre-judgment interest, and post-judgment interest. Total amount defendant will pay is $214,087.50.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Etehad Law, APC, by Simon P. Etehad, Beverly Hills.

    The Kopple Law Group, Inc., by Michael S. Kopple and Joshua L. Kopple, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Gilsleider McMahon & Molinelli  by Tioni A. Phan, Irvine.

    Gilsleider McMahon & Molinelli by Jennifer E. Miller, Sherman Oaks.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Todd Gewant, D.C., chiropractic, Santa Monica. (Treating physician.)

    Dardad Mobin, M.D., neurosurgery, Beverly Hills. (Treating physician.)

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Jeffrey Korchek, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Los Angeles.

    Neil Chafetz, M.D., radiology, Los Angeles.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiffs Adam Lawrence, 37, and Gabriel Blanco, 27, were driving southbound in the number 2 lane of the I-405 at 2:00 a.m. They were traveling at approximately 50 mph just north of the Mulholland Drive exit. The southbound lane numbers 3, 4, and 5 were coned off for construction.

    Plaintiffs were rear-ended by defendant who was traveling at approximately 65 mph after making an unsafe lane change from lane 1 to lane 2. Defendant was booked for Veh. Code § 23152 (DUI).

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiffs contended that defendant's negligence and intoxication caused the collision and plaintiffs' injuries.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant disputed the nature, severity, and cause of plaintiffs' injuries.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff Adam Lawrence experienced 3 months' worth of severe pain in his lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint, and he continued to experience lingering pain at a baseline of 1/10 to 2/10 in his lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint. As a result of these injuries, Mr. Lawrence had a diminished ability to exercise and ride bicycles; he was forced to choose jobs based on break allowances and weight of equipment he was required to operate, and he was forced to take prescription-strength medicine due to chronic pain.

    Plaintiff Gabriel Blanco experienced 3 months' worth of severe pain in his cervical spine and thoracic spine, and left shoulder pain that included numbness. He underwent 9 months of rehabilitation treatment with moderate pain, and continues to experience residual pain, soreness, and tightness on an almost daily basis that ranges between 1/10 to 2/10 and, on occasion, up to 5/10 on the pain scale.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: On 05/09/14: $49,999 per plaintiff.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: On 07/01/15: $18,000 for Lawrence and $32,000 for Blanco.

Additional Notes

Parties agreed to a pre-trial stipulation as follows: 1. Defendant's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was 0.13% at the time of the incident. 2. The accepted literature in the field of Forensic Toxicology indicates: (a) The average adult will sustain an increase in their BAC of approximately 0.02% per alcoholic beverage consumed; defined as one 12-ounce beer, one 4-ounce glass of wine, or a single ounce of 80-proof hard alcohol; and (b) The average adult will eliminate, metabolize, or "burn off," approximately 0.02% BAC per hour. 3. California law prohibits operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.