Tree branch falls, hitting driver of work truck. $4.3M. San Francisco County.


Tree branch suddenly falls onto truck; driver injured and claims the accident caused depression.

The Case

  • Case Name: Smith v. St. Francis Homes Association
  • Court and Case Number: San Francisco Superior Court / CGC-19-574365
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, November 01, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, March 07, 2019
  • Type of Case: Falling Object Accident
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Vedica Puri
  • Plaintiffs:
    Maurice Smith
  • Defendants:
    St. Francis Homes Association
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $4,300,00
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
  • Economic Damages:

    Future lost earnings: $3,500,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 13 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 5 hours
  • Jury Polls: 9-3

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Altair Law by Craig M. Peters, San Francisco.

    Kawahito Law Group by James Kawahito,Culver City.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck by Aimee Hamoy and Rogelio Serrano, San Francisco.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Piers Barry, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

    Alireza Bagherian, D.C., QME, functional capacity examinations.

    Mark D'Esposito, M.D., neurology.

    Dawn Osterweil, Ph.D., neuropsychology.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Robert Purchase, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

    Mark Strassberg, M.D., neurology.

    Joanna Berg, Ph.D., psychology.

    William Hoddick, M.D., radiology.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Maria Brady, vocational rehabilitation.

    Robert Johnson, forensic economics.

    Ken Solomon, accident reconstruction, biomechanics and human factors.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Ben Ewers, accident reconstruction and biomechanics.

    Roy Leggitt, arborist.

    Carla Kelley, vocational rehabilitation.

    Eric Drabkin, forensic economics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On April 11, 2018, 35-year-old plaintiff was working for Recology as a garbage collector, driving his truck through St. Francis Wood, a residential neighborhood in San Francisco. A large, dead tree branch broke from a tree above and fell into and shattered the driver's side window of the vehicle plaintiff was driving.

    The incident resulted in a concussion and a torn rotator cuff, leading to clinical depression and anxiety.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff's depression and anxiety were real, and were caused by/as a direct result of the accident.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Plaintiff is lying about the incident, his symptoms and his injuries.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Concussion, torn rotator cuff, cognitive deficits due to post-concussive syndrome, clinical depression, clinical anxiety, PTSD.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $3,500,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $1,500,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $301,000
  • Defendant Offer during Trial: $500,000