In June of 2014, a motorcyclist received $5.4 million in damages from the United States Government. Plaintiff John B. Hendrickson suffered severe injuries after a motorcycle collision with an on-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent, which resulted in Hendrickson’s leg being amputated.
The court awarded $6.3 million overall, attributing the fault 85 percent to the U.S. Government and 15 percent to Hendrickson, for net damages to the plaintiff of nearly 5.4 million. The verdict was reached after a 4 day trial in San Diego California, by the Honorable Larry H. Burns, United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of California.
Hendrickson, a 50-year old recording engineer, was represented by attorneys Robert J. Francavilla and Angela Jae Chun, of CaseyGerry a San Diego based law firm. The personal injury lawsuit was brought against the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) because of a collision caused by Border Patrol agent Ryan Moore. The collision occurred on Otay Mountain Truck Trail in August 2009.
“During the five years of litigation leading up to the trial, the government denied responsibility for Hendrickson’s injuries and refused to engage in settlement negotiations,” stated Francavilla. “This was a zero offer case heading into trial, and we are pleased justice has been served after all these years. The verdict acknowledges the responsibility the government has to do its job safely and protect the public.”
The site of the crash, Otay Mountain Truck Trail (OMTT), is an unpaved mountain road with several blind turns and unprotected drop off points, said Francavilla. Border Patrol agent Ryan Moore was driving a government issued Chevy Silverado when he collided with Hendrickson, who was riding his motorcycle in the opposite direction. The two were passing on a 90-degree turn on a narrow road, which Moore spend through, Hendrickson fell of his motorcycle and suffered debilitating injuries, stated Francavilla.
“As a result of the collision, my client’s severely broken leg ultimately had to be amputated,” Francavilla said. “Based on the evidence, the Judge determined that Moore was the major cause of the collision, as he was operating his vehicle at a speed too fast for the conditions and failed to yield the right of way.”
Hendrickson also suffers from several other debilitating injuries in addition to the leg amputation. The plaintiff also suffers from chronic migraine headaches, stump pain, phantom pain, lack of concentration and difficulty using his prosthesis, which requires extended therapy.
“This verdict sends a clear message that motorcycle riders have a right to safety on our roads too; and that if any driver – whether an individual citizen or a representative of the federal government – carelessly injures a rider, that driver will be held accountable,” added Francavilla.
Hendrickson has made it a goal to educate others about motorcycle safety, and to urge motorists to take care to share the road with motorcyclists. “Motorists should always look out for motorcyclists and give them plenty of extra room – as even a minor collision with a motorcycle can have devastating consequence,” said Hendrickson, who is a longtime motorcyclist and Chula Vista resident. This is the second time in the current year that CaseyGerry has won out over the U.S. government in a case regarding motorcyclists, and in both cases, the government denied having responsibility.