Vehicle accident on farm road results in jury verdict of $600K. Merced County.


Necessity of spine surgery disputed after rear-ender. Last defense offer $97,000.

The Case

  • Case Name: Bernardo Rodriguez v. Antonio Lopes
  • Court and Case Number: Merced County Superior Court / CV 002999
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, July 31, 2014
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, October 25, 2012
  • Type of Case: Vehicles - Auto vs. Auto
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Donald Proietti
  • Plaintiffs:
    Bernardo Rodriguez, 37, farm worker
  • Defendants:
    Antonio Lopes
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $613,555.03
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 0
  • Economic Damages:


  • Non-Economic Damages:


  • Punitive Damages:


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 8 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 5 hours
  • Jury Polls: 12-0

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Quirk Law Firm, LLP by Trevor Quirk, Ventura.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Law Office of Kevin Piekut by Steven Clark, Fresno.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Moshe Wilker, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Los Angeles.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Edward Eyster, M.D., neurological surgery, San Francisco.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    At 5 p.m. on Dec 11, 2011, plaintiff Bernardo Rodriguez, 37, a farm worker, was in his Chevy Silverado on an old country farm road in Merced when his vehicle was rear-ended by a Ford Ranger operated by Antonio Lopes.

    The collision propelled plaintiff's vehicle into a telephone pole. Plaintiff claimed injuries to his lower back and groin. He sued Lopes for motor vehicle negligence. At the scene, defendant's blood alcohol content was measured at 0.192 to 0.203. However, the investigating officer could not testify in court, as he was on vacation. Thus there was no foundation for the police report without the officer's testimony.

    Plaintiff then relied on the testimony of Angelo Machado, a long-time friend and then-employer of defendant Antonio Lopes. Machado testified that Lopes could barely stand up on the date of the subject accident and that he had to be given two Breathalyzers.

    Following the accident, plaintiff was taken home by his friends, who were nearby. Plaintiff did not recall any of the events following the accident, and therefore, his family decided to transport him to Los Banos Hospital. Following the emergency room care, plaintiff began treating with Steven Pittson, DC and Moshe Wilker, MD.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant was highly intoxicated and should not have been driving.

    Treating orthopedic surgeon, Moshe Wilker, testified in his deposition that Rodriguez’s injuries would require a lumbar fusion decompression at an estimated costs of $200,000.00.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That he was never drunk before and on the subject date he woke up at noon and had a glass of red wine and two natural light beers.

    Defendant’s retained expert, Edward Eyster MD, testified that Rodriguez would not require surgery.



Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Annular tears of the lumbar spine; significant disc protrusions requiring lumbar fusion decompression at L3-S1.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $70,871.46
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $200,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: 0

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: Policy limit demand of $100,000.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $44,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $97,000