One of Scarlett's brain injury clients, 21-year Drew Bianchi, was recently awarded an extraordinary $49,123,375.87 for injuries suffered as a result of being caught in a collision between two trucks on a notorious stretch of California highway. "I think the verdict clearly reflects this jury understood the tremendous cost of care associated with victims of traumatic brain injury, especially in this healthcare climate," says Scarlett.
In May of 2007, Bianchi was a student in molecular biology and about to enter his junior year in pre-med at the University of California (Davis). He was a passenger in a car travelling along Highway 152 though the Pacheco Pass near San Francisco – a narrow 14-mile stretch of highway known as 'Blood Alley' because of the frequency of accidents on the road.
The jury was most likely influenced not only by the severity of Bianchi's injuries, but also perhaps by the senselessness of the accident.
Truck driver Samuel Bimbela was going on 3 hours of sleep and behind the wheel of a giant Peterbilt truck. Just ahead, on the other side of the road was Michael Demma, driving an 18 wheel big rig for Gordon Trucking and talking on his cell phone.
"Demma had been talking on his cell phone for 30 minutes," says Scarlett. "He was still on his cell phone at the time of impact. And, he said to the person on the other end of the 'oh shit, I am going to be in an accident'."
At trial each driver blamed the other for crossing over the centerline. Nevertheless, the rigs smashed head on – and the Peterbilt truck, driven by Bimbela careened into the Bianchi vehicle.
"So you have both of these woefully inattentive truck drivers – one on the phone and the other sleep deprived, both operating their trucks on this dangerous stretch of roadway at or near the centerline," says Scarlett. "There was no evasive action taken by either one."
Bianchi, who will need round-the-clock care for the rest of life and will never go back to university or become a doctor, sued the state of California, both drivers and their respective trucking companies.
The jury awarded Bianchi $3.4 million in past medical expenses, $27.5 for future medical expenses and $4.5 for lost wages and $13.5 in general damages.
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It is believed to be one of the highest, if not the highest non-punitive verdicts in California for an individual sustaining a traumatic brain injury.
Randall Scarlett is a principal with the Scarlett Law Group. He concentrates his practice in the areas of catastrophic personal injury, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, wrongful death and other serious wrongs. The Scarlett Law Group also handles cases involving product liability, aviation disaster, medical malpractice, international human rights, domestic civil rights, environmental and complex consumer actions. Scarlett is a past vice-president and member of the board of directors of the California Brain Injury Assocation (CALBIA).