A jury awarded $53.7 million to two Southland brothers who were severely injured following a head-on collision with a big-rig on state route 14 in 2014.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel returned the verdict Wednesday on behalf of Matthew and Michael Lennig and against Hector Contreras, a driver for trucking company CRST Inc.
“The lives of these two men were forever changed as a result of this horrific accident and the negligent employment practices of CRST,” said Brian Panish, attorney for Michael Lenning.
Lawyer Kevin Boyle, Panish’s law partner, said both sides agreed before trial that CRST was Contreras’ employer and that the company would be liable for any verdict returned against the driver.
Matthew Lenning’s lawyer, R. Rex Perris, said the jury’s verdict “will enable the brothers to get the medical treatment they’ll need to live their best lives possible while serving as a wake-up call to any company that neglects the safety of the public at large.”
The brothers were traveling northbound on route 14 near Mojave in Kern County headed to their annual fishing trip at Mammoth Lake about 2 p.m. July 7, 2014, trial testimony showed. As their vehicle approached a construction zone, a CRST big rig crossed over the yellow line in the southbound lanes and into opposing traffic, striking the brothers’ vehicle head- on, testimony showed.
Michael Lennig of San Dimas was 36 years old at the time of the accident and worked as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. Matthew Lenning, a Rancho Cucamonga resident, was 30 and employed at Bose Corp. Both suffered traumatic brain injuries as well as serious back and arm injuries.
Although Contreras admitted responsibility for the accident, jurors were called upon to decide what the plaintiffs deserved in compensatory damages.
In a sworn declaration, Contreras said he was headed to Riverside at the time of the accident and that he had not consumed any alcohol or drugs during the prior four days.
Throughout the 16-day trial, the defense argued that the brothers’ injuries were less serious than described.
—City News Service