Plaintiff rear-ends tractor-trailer that merged slowly onto freeway at night. $1.45M. Orange County.


Driver who rear-ends a truck claims that the truck driver was negligent – and wins!

The Case

  • Case Name: Erika Santos v. Jose Hernandez and Ground Control Logistics
  • Court and Case Number: Orange County Superior Court / 30-2021-01207554
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, December 07, 2023
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, June 25, 2021
  • Type of Case: Negligence, Vehicles - Tractor Trailers
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Michael Strickroth
  • Plaintiffs:
    Erika Joy Santos
  • Defendants:
    Jose Hernandez
    Ground Control Logistics
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,459,561.88
  • Net Verdict or Award: $1,021,693.32
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 30% to plaintiff
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical: $64,636.94

    Future medical: $61,250

    Lost earning capacity: $366,644

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $492,530.94

    Future: $474,500 

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 10 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days
  • Jury Polls: 12-0 on damages; 10-2 on comparative negligence
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff will be filing a cost motion and attorneys fees for failure to admit any negligence totaling over $200,000.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Atticus Injury Law, PC by Atticus N. Wegman, Irvine.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Waterkotte Mullis Moreno & Garles, PC by Grant Waterkotte, Los Angeles.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Kenny Hanna, M.D., general surgery.

    Andrei Novac, M.D., psychiatry.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Ronald Kvitne, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

    Risa Grand, M.D., psychiatry.

    Kelly Jones, M.D., psychiatry. (Treating physician.)

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Catherine Graves, economics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Laura Dolan, economics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Twenty-year-old plaintiff was operating her passenger vehicle on the 405 southbound on March 24, 2021, in the City of Costa Mesa at night. Defendant  pulled his tractor-trailer out from a construction zone on the shoulder of the freeway, in front of plaintiff's vehicle. Plaintiff was unable to react and struck the rear of defendants’ vehicle. Plaintiff was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she stayed overnight. She underwent a procedure to repair two partial lacerations to her patellar tendon and lateral collateral ligament. 

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant failed to use his signal lights or blinkers and did not have his lights on when he entered the freeway at night. Further, that defendant truck driver was operating his vehicle at a slow speed, unsafe for freeway traffic, and thereby caused this collision even though defendant was the one that was rear-ended.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant argued that plaintiff was completely at fault for this incident and asked for a defense verdict.

    Defendant pointed out that plaintiff had poor eyesight and was not wearing her prescription eyeglasses and that plaintiff was speeding per her own admission; that the area of the crash was a construction zone with a speed limit of 55 mph. Defendant alleged there is no explanation for the fact that defendants’ tractor-trailer could not have been seen at the time of the crash due to its size and the fact that there was a nearby light tower.

    Defendant argued that plaintiff’s knee surgery was minor and due to the partial rather than complete tearing, the surgery was not necessary. Defendants argued that there was no need for a knee replacement and the arthritis found in plaintiff’s left knee was the same in her uninjured right knee. Defendant claimed that cervical spine was normal and uninjured and questioned platelet rich plasma therapy injections.

    Psychologically, defendants argued that plaintiff suffered from some pre-existing conditions and that plaintiff did not properly adhere to a treatment regime post-crash. Defendants stipulated to the past medical expenses, but argued that there was no lost earning capacity.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff suffered two lacerations to her left knee resulting in the need to repair her lateral collateral ligament and patellar tendon. Both lacerations resulted in partial tearing, not complete, allowing for internal stitching to re-attach the tissues. Plaintiff also suffered a cervical herniation requiring a platelet rich plasma injection. Plaintiff underwent a left knee surgery initially after being taken to the hospital from the scene to repair the partial tears to her left knee. She was released and underwent two rounds of physical therapy and two rounds of chiropractic care for her left knee and neck injuries. She underwent a left knee MRI post-surgery which revealed early onset arthritis. It was argued that Plaintiff would need a knee replacement in her future and additional platelet rich plasma injections for her neck.

    Psychologically, plaintiff developed PTSD symptoms and anxiety and depression requiring treatment with a psychologist and referral to a psychiatrist for medication administration. It was argued that plaintiff would need approximately 2-5 years of additional monthly psychotherapy sessions.


  • At the time of the crash, Plaintiff was enrolled in her first year of nursing school and was one month away from starting clinicals. It was alleged that due to the crash, she was forced to withdraw from nursing school. Due to the competitive nature of nursing school, and the healing of her injuries, she did not attempt to reapply until two years after the incident. At the time of trial, she had applied to but was not accepted into any nursing school. It was argued that her past lost earning capacity was approx. $100,000 for one year of nurse wages because had she not been injured she would have been able to be a nurse and earn one year of wages. Further, it was argued that there are three additional years of lost earning capacity because for her to return to nursing would require completion of a three-year nursing program, which was similarly estimated at $100,000 per year.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $64,636.94
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $200,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $100,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $300,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $950,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $650,000

Additional Notes

Insurer: Wilshire Insurance Company