A bicyclist who lost his left leg below the knee from injuries he suffered after being struck by a big rig is entitled to more than $50 million in damages, his attorney told a jury Wednesday.
In his closing argument in trial of Alan Casillas’ Los Angeles Superior Court negligence suit against transportation company Landstar Ranger Inc., lawyer Brian Panish said his client’s life changed that day in 2012 from an athletic, outgoing teen to a depressed young man with a permanent disability.
“It’s a complete transformation of a person,” Panish said. “That’s what’s happened in this case. There is no more Mr. Casillas as he was before.”
Defense attorney James Yukevich, who has admitted liability on behalf of Landstar Ranger, acknowledged that Casillas is entitled to several million dollars to compensate him for his past and future medical needs, including the cost of prosthetic legs. He also said the jury also would be justified in paying for four years of college tuition for the plaintiff, a former high school dropout who later obtained his GED and took classes at Cerritos College.
However, Yukevich scoffed at Panish’s multimillion-dollar recommendation for Casillas’ past and future emotional distress.
“Do we believe he’s entitled to $50 million for his pain and suffering? You better believe we don’t,” Yukevich said in suggesting an alternative amount of $2 million.
Trial testimony showed Casillas, then 19 years old and now 21, was riding his bicycle to a friend’s home to play the video game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” on Dec. 7, 2012. A big rig being driven on behalf of Landstar Ranger by Francisco Azurdia went over part of a sidewalk during a right turn from Tweedy Boulevard to Alameda Street in an unincorporated South Los Angeles, striking the plaintiff and crushing his left leg, according to trial testimony.
The trial is being held to determine the amount of Casillas’ damages.
Panish apologized to jurors for showing numerous photos of Casillas’ mangled leg, but said it was necessary to illustrate the extent of his client’s injuries.
“Words can’t describe how horrific this injury was,” Panish said.
Casillas’ optimistic view of life dimmed as he realized he would have to lose his limb, Panish said. He became further depressed while trying to struggle with life after surgery, Panish said.
“They took away his dreams, they took away his hope,” Panish said. “He’s not going to be doing all those things he used to.”
Some people stare at Casillas because of his condition, Panish said. He is distressed by the fact his mother has to help him take showers, according to the lawyer.
“You think that’s a little embarrassing?,” Panish asked.
Panish acknowledged that he is seeking a large amount of money on Casillas’ behalf, but said it is a fair amount under the circumstances given the conduct of Landstar and Azurdia.
‘They have no case, they caused the series of events to Mr. Casillas that was no fault of his own,” Panish said.
But Yukevich said that while Casillas’ injury is serious, it is limited to the loss of part of his left leg.
“He’s not paralyzed,” Yukevich said.
Yukevich displayed for jurors photos of Casilllas and his wife, Estaphany, out in public and looking happy. He said Casillas appeared to have no trouble carrying the couple’s daughter and that it was hard to tell in one of the photos that he was wearing a prosthesis.
“He is capable of most of the basic things in life,” Yukevich said.
Yukevich said his client is not trying to avoid its responsibilities to Casillas by paying too little.
“When someone says were are nickle-and-diming it’s insulting,” Yukevich said.
Casillas filed his lawsuit in February 2013.
— City News Service
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