Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A bicyclist who lost his left leg below the knee after being struck by a big rig was awarded $33.8 million in damages  by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury.

The panel reached its verdict late this afternoon after deliberating for most of the day in the lawsuit filed by 21-year-old Alan Casillas. Jurors were told at the start of the trial that transportation company Landstar Ranger Inc. had admitted negligence, and their task was to decide the plaintiff’s damages.

Casillas, then 19, was riding his bicycle to a friend’s home to play the video game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” on Dec. 7, 2012, when he was injured.

A Landstar Ranger big rig being driven 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.

Casillas said he was “very pleased” with the verdict. Sitting in his wheelchair outside the courtroom, he said he will use the money to pay for his medical needs and his college expenses. The former high school dropout later obtained his GED and has taken classes at Cerritos College.

Asked if he believed Azurdia could have avoided the accident, Casillas said the driver should have taken more precautions.

“This shouldn’t happen to anybody,” said Casillas, who stopped short of saying that Azurdia should never be allowed to drive again.

Casillas’ attorney, Brian Panish, said the defense should have settled the case before trial.

Jury foreman Jim Lambert, 64, of Burbank said the panel spent most of its deliberations deciding Casillas’ damages for his pain and suffering. He said Casillas was hurt because of an “unfortunate accident” and that the jury was not asked to assess blame.

In his final argument Wednesday, defense attorney James Yukevich acknowledged that Casillas was 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.

Yukevich criticized Panish’s multimillion-dollar recommendation for Casillas’ past and future emotional distress as unreasonably excessive.

In testimony Tuesday, Casillas said his screams, which can be heard in the background during a bystander’s 911 call that was played for the jury, underscored that he “was in a lot of pain.”

“I was screaming for help. I saw my leg, there was a lot of blood,” he said.

Asked by Panish if he had ever experienced such distress before, Casillas replied, “No, I haven’t. I thought I was going to die out there.”

City News Service

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