Man trimming homeowner's olive trees is struck by car; wrongful death. $10M. Butte County.


Man hired by homeowners to trim olive trees is struck by car while working.

The Case

  • Case Name: Reynoso, et al. v. Burch, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Butte County Superior Court /18CV01433
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, June 30, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, May 07, 2018
  • Type of Case: Wrongful Death
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Tamara Mosbbarger
  • Plaintiffs:
    Adriana Margarita Reynoso, 49, and two minor children
  • Defendants:
    Rockey Dean Burch
    Richard Thompson and Mary Lake-Thompson
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $10,000,000
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 2 weeks

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Quirk Law Firm, LLP by Trevor Quirk, Ventura.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Powers Miller by R. James Miller, Roseville.

    Matheny Sears by Joseph Muller, Sacramento.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Chris Gayner, accident reconstruction.

    Philip Sidlow, economics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Rajeev Kelkar, accident reconstruction. (For defendants, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson.)

    Andrew Michael O’Brien, vocational rehabilitation. (For defendants, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson.)

    Laurence Neuman, accident reconstruction. (For defendant Burch.)

    Rickey A. Sarkisian, vocational rehabilitation. (For defendant Burch.)

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On or about April 19, 2018 Carlos Gonzalez (decedent), was working with his brother on trimming olive trees on property owned by defendants, the Thompsons, in Oroville.

    Defendant Burch was driving a pickup truck when he left the road, struck Mr. Gonzalez, killing him, and then fled the scene. Defendant Burch hit a utility pole with his truck either before or after hitting and killing Mr. Gonzalez. Paramedics declared Mr. Gonzalez dead at the scene.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That Mr. Gonzalez’s brother was defendants Thompsons’ agent/employee; that defendant driver, homeowners and their gardener were negligent; that the Thompsons were vicariously liable for their agent/employee’s negligence, which resulted in the wrongful death of Mr. Gonzalez.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendants disputed liability.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiffs' husband/father was killed.

  • Depression.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: 998 Offer to Compromise to defendants Burch and the Thompsons on September 24, 2020, for $999,999.99 for each plaintiff.  Defendants objected and rejected the 998 Offers to Compromise.
  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: Plaintiffs made a policy limits demand to defendants Richard Thompson and Mary Lake-Thompson on September 7, 2018.  AMCO rejected the demand.
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: Defendant Burch offered his liability policy limit of $100,000 to plaintiffs on June 22, 2018. Plaintiffs did not accept.

Additional Notes

 Workers' compensation insurance claim was denied as the insurer claimed plaintiff was not working.