Matthew Wonders v. Douglas Groneman & West Edna Associates, Ltd. d/b/a Mojave Electric, No. A451562

Educational History

As published in

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Van’s unsafe lane change led to crash with motorcycle

 

Verdict $3,453,895
Actual

$3,108,506

Case Matthew Wonders v. Douglas Groneman & West Edna Associates, Ltd. d/b/a Mojave Electric, No. A451562
Court Eighth Judicial District Court, Las Vegas, NV
Judge Michelle Leavitt
Date 3/2/2006
Plaintiff Attorney(s) Xavier Gonzales, Law Office of Xavier Gonzales, Las Vegas, NV 
Richard M. Zamora, The Zamora Law Firm, Las Vegas, NV
Defense Attorney(s) Brent D. Anderson, Snell & Willmer, Denver, CO 
Janet Cornwall Pancoast, Bennion, Clayson, Marias & Haire, Las Vegas, NV


FACTS & ALLEGATIONS 

On April 4, 2003, approximately 6:30 a.m., plaintiff Matthew Wonders, 23, a counter clerk, was riding his motorcycle southbound down the far left lane of Valley View Boulevard in Las Vegas. About 234 feet before Valley View intersects with South Hacienda Boulevard, Wonders collided with a van driven by Douglas Groneman in the course and scope of his employment with West Edna Associates, operating as Mojave Electric.

Wonders sued Groneman for vehicular negligence and the van’s owner, West Edna, under the theories of respondent superior and vicarious liability. Wonders also claimed that the defendants were negligent under the doctrine of negligence per se, for violation of statutes enacted to prevent drivers from making an unsafe lane change, and prevent drivers from impeding traffic.

Wonders claimed that as he approached the intersection, the van suddenly cut him off, turning into his lane from the right at a speed of about 5 mph.

The defense contended that Groneman slowly traveled in the far left lane in preparation to turn left at the intersection, until he finally came to a stop. The defense argued that at this point, Wonders came up behind him and rear-ended him. The defense asserted a comparative negligence argument, contending that Wonders should have seen the van and avoided it.

INJURIES/DAMAGES

 amputation, arm; brachial plexus dysfunction; shoulder
Wonders sustained a brachial plexus injury, which did not heal and, as a result, a transhumeral amputation of his right (dominant) arm was required and performed six months later. Wonders also suffered from global instability of his right shoulder as a result of the accident.

Wonders contended that future medical treatment included five surgeries, costing about $62,000 apiece, to address the global instability of his shoulder. He also contended that he would require a prosthetic electric arm which cost about $99,000. This prosthesis lasts about 5 years and also may require maintenance fees for its upkeep. After every five years, he will require another prosthetic arm. He claimed past medical expenses of $151,142 and future medical expenses of $2.4 million to $3.5 million.

Wonders sought past and future lost earnings of about $1 million. He also sought an unspecified amount of noneconomic damages for pain and suffering.

The defense contested the future medical claims, claiming Wonders only needed a hybrid model electric arm (which has no bionic elbow, unlike the plaintiff’s recommended prosthesis) which cost about $50,000. (This model also lasts only five years before it requires a replacement.)

The defense contested the lost earnings claim, contending it totaled only about $70,000. The defense claimed Wonders failed to mitigate damages arguing he has obligation to obtain a college degree in order to be able to secure a job which does not require any manual labor.

RESULT

The jury found that the defendants were 90%, and that Wonders was 10% liable. The jury determined that the compensatory damages totaled $3,453,896, but the comparative-negligence reduction produced a net award of $3,108,506.

Counsel for the plaintiff commented that following the trial, some of the jurors felt Wonders should have seen Groneman before the collision occurred and that Wonders should have been vigilant of the van’s presence.

 

M. Wonders $151,142 past damages 
$3,302,754 future damages 
$3,453,896
Demand

$4.25 million

Offer $1.75 million
Insurer(s) Zurich (primary, first million) 
Great American (excess)
Trial Details Trial Length: 8 days 
Trial Deliberations: 5 hours 
Jury Vote: 8-0 
Jury Composition: 3 male, 5 female
Plaintiff Expert(s) Terrence Claurette, economics, Las Vegas, NV 
Curtis Flynn, accident investigation & reconstruction/failure analysis/product liability, El Paso, TX 
Jeni Kostelac, vocational rehabilitation, Las Vegas, NV 
Chadwick F. Smith, orthopedics, Los Angeles, CA
Plaintiff Attorney(s) Xavier Gonzales, Law Office of Xavier Gonzales, Las Vegas, NV 
Richard M. Zamora, The Zamora Law Firm, Las Vegas, NV
Defense Expert(s)
Christopher C. Pflaum, economics, Overland Park, KS


EDITOR’S NOTE Counsel for the defense did not respond to an emailed draft of this report or a phone call.

Ivan Alexander

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