OC Sheriff's investigator rear-ends family of three. $2.2M. Orange County.
Though liability is admitted, defendant Orange County disputes extent of injuries and treatment.
- Case Name: Collazo v. County of Orange
- Court and Case Number: Orange County Superior Court / 30-201800989902-CU-PA-CJC
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, October 29, 2020
- Date Action was Filed: Monday, May 28, 2018
- Type of Action: Vehicles – rear-ender
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Judge Craig L. Griffin
Plaintiffs: Jesus Collazo, restaurant and supermarket employeeLorena CollazoDiego Collazo, supermarket employee
Defendants: County of Orange
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $2,221,768.53
- Net Verdict or Award: TBD
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 10/19/20 -10/29/20
- Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day
Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley by Daniel Benji and Albert Ng, Beverly Hills.
RMD Law by Nicole Dolle, Irvine.
Attorney for the Defendant:
Lawrence Beach Allen & Choi, PC by Dennis Gonzales and Emily Suhr, Glendale.
Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Kasra Rowshan M.D., orthopedic surgery.
Arthur Kreitenberg, M.D., orthopedics.
Michael Shahbazian, M.D. anesthesiology and pain management.
Keith Liberman, M.D., orthopedics.
Stephen Rothman, M.D., diagnostic radiology.
Facts and Background
Facts and Background:
On June 8, 2017, the Collazo family was driving in their 2006 Mercedes Benz E350. Jesus Collazo (48 years old) was driving the vehicle, his son Diego (19 years old) rode in the passenger seat, and his wife (age 44) was seated in the rear driver’s side seat.
They entered the onramp of the westbound 22 Freeway from Chapman Avenue. After traversing the curved portion of the onramp, they came to a tri-phase ramp light designed to control traffic entering the highway. Jesus Collazo, the driver of the vehicle, came to a complete stop for the red light.
Moments later, the Collazos felt a severe impact from the rear. County employee and on-duty investigator Chad Phillips (“Phillips”) had also attempted to enter the freeway, however, he had dropped his handheld radio speaker microphone on the floorboard of the vehicle. By his own admission, he was distracted and did not see that the Collazos had stopped lawfully for the red light. In his deposition, he also admitted that he had made this very mistake before, and that it did not comport with his training on safe driving practices in picking up the microphone.
Due to his distraction, the rented Ford F-150 he was driving, a five-thousand-pound body-on-frame truck, crashed into the rear of the Collazos’ vehicle.
That this rear-ender was the source of great pain and suffering to plaintiffs. Lorena in particular was the one most affected by the accident as she has not been able to return to work as a hotel housekeeper since. That as a result Lorena was forced to undergo a litany of medical treatment, including over 10 injections, a laminectomy, a spinal chord stimulator, etc. Altogether, Lorena's medical expenses equaled nearly $475,000. Lorena's doctors also support the contention that she will need to undergo a spinal fusion in the future as a result of the subject incident as well.
The medical bills for all three plaintiffs, not counting the ongoing pain and suffering that collectively they continue to tolerate from this incident, amounted to nearly $560,000.
Despite defendant's contention, the medical treatment rendered to all three plaintiffs for this case was reasonable and necessary, especially since Lorena remains symptomatic to this day. Plaintiffs deserve reasonable compensation in this case where defendant had already admitted liability.
That not all the medical treatments received by plaintiffs were reasonable and necessary. That any damage awarded to plaintiffs should account for the fact that Lorena had a history of prior back complaints, such as claims of work-related injury to her back.
That Lorena's ongoing symptoms and continuous treatment were more due to her physical profile, as indicated by her doctor's past diagnosis of her being obese. Based on the sub rosa video obtained, Lorena was not actually as injured from the incident as suggested. Plaintiffs and their attorneys orchestrated a conspiracy to build up the case because they saw defendant Orange County as having deep pockets.
Injuries and Other Damages
Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Lorena Collazo: Lumbar spine; cervical spine; shoulder.
Jesus Collazo: lumbar spine; cervical spine; shoulder; (knee; right finger.
Diego Collazo: right ankle; lumbar spine; neck; right shoulder; lower back.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Lorena: $474,471.37 Jesus: $72,396.46 Diego: $11,450.70
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: Lorena: $150,000
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: Lorena: $45,000
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $750,000 for Lorena, and $65,000 for Jesus.
- Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $1,000,000
- Defendant §998 Offer: $0
- Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $0
The case turned on: (1) The credibility of the plaintiffs' story, (2) The testimony from plaintiffs' expert witnesses to support plaintiffs' theory for damages, and (3) The thorough cross-examination/impeachment of defendant's experts, who were trying to discredit plaintiffs' claims for damages.