Two-motorcycle rear-ender; defense denies liability. $54K. Alameda County.


A group of motorcyclists was on a "poker run" when one participant's motorcycle rear-ended another.  Liability was disputed.

The Case

  • Case Name: Theis v. Altom
  • Court and Case Number: Alameda Superior Court / RG14741784
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, July 19, 2016
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, September 24, 2014
  • Type of Case: Vehicles - Motorcycle
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Robert Freedman
  • Plaintiffs:
    Michael Theis, 44, floor installer
  • Defendants:
    Richard Altom
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $54,105
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medicals: $18,862

    Future Medicals: $25,233

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past pain and suffering: $5,000

    Future pain and suffering: $5,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 4 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day
  • Jury Polls: 12-0

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Richard B. Curtis, Albany.

    Law Office of James Bachan by James B Sutherland, Oakland.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Law Office of Mark T Lobre by  Brian Har, San Francisco.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Douglas Abeles, M.D., orthopedics, Castro Valley.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Joseph McCoy, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Napa.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The subject incident occurred on September 28, 2012 at about 3:00 pm at the intersection of Altamont Pass Road and Greenville Road, Alameda County.

    The two parties were participating in a Poker Run, a fundraising event for motorcycling enthusiasts wherein a group of motorcyclists meet, usually at a bar. They travel to four or five different bars, stopping at each one to receive a card in a sealed envelope. At the end of the run, the envelopes are opened to see who has the best/worst hand. Both parties had been to three establishments and were in a group of about twelve riders heading to the next bar.

    They were riding in formation, wherein they were traveling two by two in a line. At the stop sign on Old Altimont Pass Road at Greenville Road, each pair of motorcyclists would come to a stop, proceed through the intersection and wait on the other side until each group passed through before continuing on. Plaintiff had come to a stop at the stop sign and was hit in the rear by defendant's motorcycle.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That plaintiff was stopped at a stop sign in a group of bikers when he was suddenly hit in the rear by defendant.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That an unknown, third, homemade motorcycle hit defendant in the rear, forcing his bike into plaintiff's bike.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Rotator cuff tear in the left shoulder. Lower back pain.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $32,164.69
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $40,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $100,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $25,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiff had a witness that corroborated his story. Post verdict questioning of the jury revealed they did not believe the defendant's version of the story; they liked and believed plaintiff's doctor; they did not give the defense doctor much credibility, and the subrosa film of plaintiff helping his wheelchair-bound mother did nothing to sway them. Further, they reduced plaintiff's past and future medicals due to plaintiff being told early on he needed a shoulder operation, but chose instead to take painkillers.