$14.5 Million – Motorcycle Accident
$14,548,351 verdict by RCRSD partner Daniel S. Robinson
Facts & Allegations
On March 16, 2008, plaintiff Donte Poole, 25, a home care attendant, was operating his motorcycle southbound on South Acacia Avenue in Compton. As he entered the intersection of West Raymond Street, Poole collided with a sport utility vehicle operated by Juliana Picazo, who making a left turn onto northbound South Acacia from eastbound West Raymond. Poole suffered severe spinal injuries and sustained paraplegia.
Poole sued Picazo, alleging she was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. He contended that Picazo was solely responsible for the accident for failing to yield the right of way and for failing to come to a complete stop at the stop sign. Poole’s side of the intersection was not controlled by stop signs.
The police report determined that Picazo was the primary collision factor, for failing to yield the right of way while making a left turn.
Picazo argued that Poole was the sole proximate cause of the accident and his injuries. She asserted that Poole was negligent, in that he was speeding on his motorcycle and/or was inattentive to the surrounding traffic.
Poole was taken by ambulance from the scene of the accident to the emergency room. He sustained catastrophic injuries, including paraplegia from a complete injury to his T5-6 vertebrae, with no feeling below his chest. He also dislocated his left shoulder in the accident. He suffered from subsequent medical issues involving his bladder and bowel, which required surgery in the fall of 2010.
Poole contended that he is now confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He claimed that the injury has made life extremely difficult for him and his fiancee/primary caregiver, who has assisted him in dressing and bladder/bowel programs since the incident. Poole was permanently placed on Coumadin, a blood thinner, to treat blood clots in both legs. He also asserted that his confinement to a wheelchair has aggravated his left shoulder injury.
Poole claimed that he was very active before the accident, playing basketball and football regularly, while also performing with a competitive dance group. He further argued that his extra-large wheelchair has inconvenienced his homebound life, and that his house needs to be renovated in certain areas to make it handicap accessible.
Poole sought $461,059.76 in damages for past medical costs, $4 million to $8 million for future medical costs, $29,001 for past lost earnings and $828,352 for future lost earnings. He also sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.
Picazo argued that Poole could go on to live a fairly normal life, despite being confined to a wheelchair. She did not contest Poole’s past economic damages, but argued that his future medical and life care costs were $2,424,060 and that his future lost earnings were as low as $195,695, arguing that Poole was still able to return to work full -time.
The jury found in favor of Poole and apportioned all negligence to Picazo. Poole was awrded $14,548,350.76 in damages.
Los Angeles Daily Journal Article
January 19, 2011 – It took 1 minute for a jury to side with Donte Poole.
Left paraplegic after his motorcycle slammed into an SUV, Poole was awarded a hefty $14.5 million by a Los Angeles County jury in November. A big factor that swayed jurors, according to his attorney, was defendant Juliana Picazo’s less-than-believable story – backed by the two passengers in her SUV – that she stopped at a stop sign for a full 60 seconds before colliding with Poole.
“It felt like an intentionally made up story and they lost a lot of credibility,” said Daniel S. Robinson, who represented Poole, along with Theodore Wacker, both of Robinson Calcagnie & Robinson.
Poole was on his way to drop off his motorcycle at a friend’s house before work on a Sunday morning when he collided with the side of Picazo’s Chevy Tahoe. In the course of the complex, 17-day trial, Picazo claimed she always stopped at the intersection where the crash occurred, but witnesses said otherwise.
Poole sought compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost pay and pain and suffering. While a huge amount of money, the award made sense in light of everything his client lost as a result of the crash, Robinson said.
“We really got the jurors to understand to the extent they could what it’s like to be a paraplegic,” he said.
A big man who stood 6 foot 3 inches tall, Poole used to ride motorcycles with friends on the weekends, play basketball and dance in a professional troupe. These days it can take him an hour just to put on his pants or go to the bathroom, Robinson said.
Once employed as a caregiver for disabled people, Poole also used to pitch in to care for family members. Now he needs their help, a role reversal that’s been very hard on him, Robinson said. “This is a person whose life is forever changed.”