Uber driver collides with runner on way to pick up passengers. $6.7M. Los Angeles County.


Driver is making a right turn when he strikes (disputed) runner. Driver later admits negligence in return for dismissal from case, leaving Uber as the defendant.

The Case

  • Case Name: Craig Koenekoop v. Uber Technologies, Inc., Raiser-CA LLC, Rasier LLC, James Thompson and Does 1 to 20
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / 20STCV18978
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, April 10, 2024
  • Type of Case: Vehicles - vs. Pedestrian
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Michael I. Levanas
  • Plaintiffs:
    Craig Koenekoop
  • Defendants:
    Uber Technologies, Inc.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $6,768,071.46
  • Economic Damages:

    Past medical: $253,571.46

    Future medical: $514,500

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $4,000,000

    Future: $2,000,000

  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff intends to file a memorandum of costs.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Offices of Brian Breiter, LLP by Brian Breiter and Jeff Twomey, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman, LLP by Sam McDermott and Jade Tran, Aliso Viejo and Los Angeles.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Jason Snibbe, M.D., orthopedic surgery – hips.

    Jason Cuellar, M.D., orthopedic surgery – spine.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Stephen Mikulak, M.D., orthopedic surgery – hips.

    Daniel Yanni, M.D., orthopedic surgery – spine.

    Brian King, M.D., neuroradiology.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Andrew Morris, medical billing.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Thomas Fugger, PE, accident reconstruction.

    Mark Gomez, Ph.D., biomechanics.

    Kathy Corona, medical billing.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On December 20, 2018, plaintiff, a 30-year-old freelance writer, was out running at approximately 7:35 p.m. He was going west on Melrose Avenue, approaching the intersection with Orlando Avenue. Plaintiff was wearing black shorts and no shirt or reflective clothing. Defendant driver James Thompson was logged onto the Uber App and was driving east on Melrose Avenue to pick up two passengers whose ride request he had accepted. As Thompson turned right onto Orlando Avenue, his vehicle struck plaintiff’s body. Plaintiff was taken by ambulance (no lights or sirens) to Cedars-Sinai where he was diagnosed with a non-displaced right clavicle fracture and closed head injury. Plaintiff reported neck pain but denied back or bilateral hip pain.

    Approximately one month later, plaintiff reported recent onset of right hip pain. Two months later, plaintiff reported left pain as well as right. Bilateral hip MRIs in 2019 revealed labral tears, chondral loss and osteoarthritis. He engaged in physical therapy from March to July 2019 for a total of 43 visits. Plaintiff’s next medical appointment was in August 2020, when he saw an orthopedic surgeon on a lien and reported low-back pain as well as bilateral hip pain. He underwent a lumbar spine MRI and was referred to undergo epidural injections, but refused. His next medical appointment was in June 2021, with spine surgeon Dr. Jason Cuellar. Plaintiff complained of neck and low-back pain. He underwent an epidural at C4-5 and medial branch blocks at L4-5 and L5-S1.

    Plaintiff later consulted with orthopedic hip expert Dr. Jason Snibbe in May 2022. He was diagnosed with femoroacetabular impingement syndrome (FAI), a congenital condition where the femoral head is egg-shaped instead of sphere-shaped, causing an impingement with the socket of the hip joint. This condition is in approximately 30% of the population and can frequently cause labral tears and cartilage damage in active individuals. Plaintiff underwent bilateral arthroscopic labral repair and osteoplasty in May 2022 and April 2023.

    Plaintiff was an avid runner before the collision and ran approximately five-to-seven miles three-to-four times per week. There were no medical records indicating any prior neck, back, or hip pain.

    Plaintiff sued James Thompson, alleging he was negligent in the operation of his vehicle, and Uber Technologies, Inc., Rasier-CA, LLC, and Rasier, LLC (“Uber”), alleging they were vicariously liable for the negligence of Thompson.

    Throughout litigation, Uber disputed that Thompson was an employee or agent and all defendants disputed that Thompson was liable for the collision, the nature and extent of plaintiff’s damages, and contended that plaintiff was negligent with respect to the collision.

    Uber filed a motion to bifurcate, requesting the issue of vicarious liability be tried before negligence or damages.

    Prior to trial and to streamline the issues for the Court in the interest of judicial efficiency, Uber stipulated to vicarious liability for this case alone.  In doing so, Uber specified it was not admitting to any classification of its relationship or lack thereof with drivers who use the Uber App, or with defendant Thompson in particular, and it aimed solely to narrow the issues for trial in this pre-Proposition 22 case. Thereafter, defendant Thompson stipulated that he, and he alone, was negligent in causing the accident. In exchange for Thompson’s stipulation, plaintiff dismissed Thompson from the action.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff was asymptomatic and a very active runner prior to the collision. After the crash, he attempted to jog but was never able to run pain-free or as far as he could before the crash. Plaintiff alleged a clavicle fracture, mild traumatic brain injury, traumatic bilateral labral tears, and injuries to his cervical and lumbar spine.

    Plaintiff reported being struck on the right side of his body, crashing into the hood of Thompson’s vehicle and damaging the hood, then being thrown onto the road and losing consciousness briefly. He said he did report bilateral hip and back pain in the ER despite the records indicating he denied pain. He left the ER limping and had to use a cane for approximately three months.

    At trial, plaintiff said that he did report neck and back pain consistently to his doctors and during many months of physical therapy; however, the records show no report of back pain until October 2020 and no neck pain after the ER until June 2021.

    Plaintiff alleged the bilateral hip arthroscopies were directly caused by the collision, or, at the very least, were required due to the accident’s aggravation of his pre-existing asymptomatic FAI hip condition. His experts further opined that he will require bilateral hip replacements and revision of the same, as well as artificial disc replacement at C4-5, L4-5, and L5-S1. 

    Plaintiff did not retain a neurologist as his mild TBI had resolved within approximately six to eight weeks of the collision.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    James Thompson testified that his vehicle did not strike plaintiff, that instead, he slammed on his brakes and stopped his car, then plaintiff jumped onto the hood of his car and slowly rolled off. He said plaintiff immediately got up, started yelling at Mr. Thompson and demanded to see his dash cam; then plaintiff made a phone call and Thompson overheard the voice on the call tell plaintiff to “play dead.”

    Defendants alleged that none of the treatment after July 2019 was related to the collision. Defendants pointed to the multiple gaps in treatment (July 2019 to August 2020, October 2020 to June 2021, and July 2022 to April 2023) and inconsistencies in the complaints in the medical records. For instance, plaintiff reported neck pain at the ER but did not report neck pain again until June 2021. Plaintiff denied back pain in the ER and the first note of back pain in the records was nearly a year-and-a-half later in August 2020. Plaintiff also denied bilateral hip pain in the ER.

    Defendants alleged that plaintiff’s hip problems, including labral tears and cartilage damage, were the result of pre-existing FAI, plaintiff’s history of running 5-7 miles 3-4x per week, and that he had been heavily overweight in his teen years, causing stress on his lumbar spine and leading to premature deterioration. Defense hip expert Dr. Stephen Mikulak opined that plaintiff would have required the same hip treatment (bilateral arthroscopies and future hip replacements) even if the crash had not happened as the need for this treatment was entirely due to his FAI. Dr. Mikulak opined that the crash caused no structural damage to plaintiff’s hips and that the MRIs showed significantly frayed labral tears and degenerated cartilage, which indicate a long-standing degenerative process and not trauma. Dr. Mikulak opined it is medically likely plaintiff had hip pain prior to the collision but just didn’t report it to a doctor.

    Defendants’ neurosurgeon, Dr. Yanni, and neuroradiologist, Dr. King, alleged plaintiff’s cervical and lumbar MRIs were normal for his age group, showing little-to-no disc bulging and no signs of acute trauma or neural impingement. Dr. Yanni opined that plaintiff’s neck and back pain could not be attributed to the collision based on the normal MRI findings and the lack of complaints for more than a year following the collision.

    Defendants’ biomechanical engineer, Mark Gomez, testified there was no mechanism for the claimed injuries (acute hip labral tears, cervical disc injury, or lumbar disc injury) and that plaintiff’s injuries were consistent with his longstanding activity level. He opined that there is no evidence to support a mechanism for any injuries other than plaintiff’s clavicle fracture.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $253,571.46
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $1,300,000 to $2,200,000

Additional Notes

Defendants collectively (Uber entities and Thompson) issued a CCP § 998 for $1 million.

Plaintiff’s last demand before trial was $4.2 million.

Per defense counsel:

During trial, plaintiff presented a settlement demand of $15 million.

In closing argument, plaintiff's counsel asked the jury to award $18 million in past pain and suffering, and $19 million in future pain and suffering, for a total award of over $39 million.