$12,000,000 :: Lee v. Fujita
SETTLEMENT : Small child injured in head-on collision
On April 8, 1993, the Plaintiff, a six-year-old child, was riding as a passenger in a minivan. The van, operated by an after-school teacher, had two other passengers, also kindergarten students. One sustained major injuries, and the other student sustained minor injuries.
The Defendant was driving on Crenshaw Blvd. near Domingues in Torrance, California. The vehicle, a Cadillac, crossed over a nine-foot wide painted median onto the wrong side of the road, striking a motorcycle and then the minivan in a head-on collision.
The Defendant was operating the vehicle within the scope of work as an employee of Fujita.
The Plaintiff sustained major brain injuries which included the loss of brain tissue. The child suffered right-side paralysis, deterioration in cognitive ability, and reduced vision. The injuries required an initial cost of $400,000 for medical treatment and care, which an unknown projected cost.
The Defendant’s legal team argued that the vehicle had a “sudden mechanical failure” which caused a loss of control by the driver. They also argued that the Plaintiff’s lack of seatbelt use were the true cause of the injuries.
The catastrophic injury lawsuit was settled for $12,000,000 cash, including $1,500,000 to the mother of the child, who sued for her damages involved in supporting and caring for the child.
Deciding liability was difficult and time-consuming. The driver was employed by a subsidiary of Fujita, and several insurance policies were taken out by the employer and its subsidiaries. The cost of the settlement was eventually covered by a number of insurance companies.
The case settled the night before trial.