Meter Maid's Case Expires Against Brake Parts Inc.

Posted on Friday, 18 July 2008


Mercy Zamora v. Textron Inc., et al.: San Francisco County
Superior Court, Case No. CGC-06-453285

Date of Trial: June 23, 2008 through July 18, 2008

Judge: Hon. Suzanne R. Bolanos, SFSC Dept. 602

Trial Counsel:
• Thomas Brandi and Casey Kaufman of The Brandi Law Firm
for Plaintiff Mercy Zamora
• Edward R. Hugo of HUGO PARKER, LLP
for Defendants Affinia Group Inc. and Brake Parts Inc. ("Affinia/BPI")
• Jeffrey Healy and Peggy S. Doyle of Tucker Ellis & West
for Defendants Textron Inc., Ransomes America Corp., and Cushman Inc.
("The Cushman Defendants")

Pre-Trial Demands:
Plaintiff served C.C.P. § 998 offers of $2,000,000 to Affinia/BPI and $2,500,000 to the Cushman defendants. Affinia/BPI served plaintiff with a 998 offer of $0 plus a waiver of costs.

The jury deliberated for 2 days and returned a complete defense verdict for Affinia/BPI on July 18, 2008. As to the remaining defendants, the jury awarded plaintiff a total of $1,595,000.00 ($150,000 in past lost earnings, $295,000 in past medical expenses, $500,000 in future lost earnings, $150,000 in future medical expenses, $500,000 for past non-economic damages, and $0 for future non-economic damages.) The jury found the Cushman defendants 37.5% responsible, the City & County of San Francisco 57.5% responsible for plaintiff's injuries, and plaintiff herself 5% responsible. (Affinia/BPI was found 0% responsible.) Jury verdict form is attached.

Case Summary:
Plaintiff Mercy Zamora was injured when the Cushman vehicle she was operating as part of her job as a San Francisco parking control officer lost its brakes on city streets and collided into the rear of a stopped van. Plaintiff sustained pelvic fractures, orthopedic injuries to her hand and knee, lacerations to her head, chin, liver, and vagina, and had an ovary and parts of her intestine removed surgically. She further claimed major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mild traumatic brain injury. She claimed to have been unable to return to her job as a meter maid or to any other non-sedentary job, although she admitted to having completed several 10K runs during the several months prior to the trial. Plaintiff claimed that the Cushman defendants' vehicle was defectively designed, based on the fact that the vehicle contained only a single circuit master cylinder, as opposed to a dual circuit system, and no brake fluid failure indicator, in violation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and sound engineering concepts. She also claimed that the Cushman vehicle's design was not crashworthy. She further claimed that the front wheel cylinder installed in the vehicle, manufactured by Affinia/BPI, broke prior to the incident due to defective and negligent manufacturing. Affinia/BPI argued that the wheel cylinder broke as result of the collision, and not prior to collision, and that there was no manufacturing defect in its product. The Cushman defendants argued that its vehicle adhered to applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in that it had two independently actuated braking systems (the single circuit master cylinder and a parking brake.) Both Affinia/BPI and the Cushman defendants argued that mechanics of the City & County of San Francisco failed to adequately maintain and/or repair the vehicle, which plaintiff herself had taken out of service some two months prior to the accident due to faulty brakes, in that the wheel cylinder had been over-torqued prior to the accident to the point of weakening and cracking the cylinder. Affinia/BPI further argued that the City mechanics had under-torqued the master cylinder when it was installed, causing it to slowly leak brake fluid some two months prior to the accident. In closing argument Plaintiff's counsel asked the jury to award several million dollars in special and non-economic damages, including more than $3,000,000 in future pain and suffering alone.

Plaintiffs’ Trial Witnesses:
Mercy Zamora (plaintiff)
Nelson Martinez (husband)
Bruce Ackerman (eyewitness)
Felix Sung (SFPD Investigating Officer)
Kjell Harshman (EMT)
Scott Lemos (by video deposition; Cushman PMK)
Jarrett Jones (by video deposition; Cushman PMK)
George Bielis (by video deposition; Affinia/BPI PMK; counter-designations were played in Affinia/BPI's case)
Victor Lee (CCSF mechanic)
John William Morris (plaintiff's retained metallurgical expert)
Rudolf Limpert (plaintiff's retained brakes expert)
Mark Shattuck (plaintiff's retained accident reconstruction expert)
Stanley Stokes (by video deposition; Affinia/BPI brakes expert; counter-designations were played in Affinia/BPI's case)
Richard Greenspan (by video deposition; Cushman's mechanic expert)
Jan Horn, M.D. (treating physician)
Scott Rome, M.D. (treating physician)
Kenneth Fechtner, M.D. (plaintiff's retained physical medicine and rehabilitation expert)
Paul Berg (plaintiff's retained psychologist)
Mark Strassberg, M.D. (by video deposition; defendants' retained psychiatric expert)
Michael Cedars, M.D. (by video deposition; defendants' retained plastic surgery expert)
Carol Hyland (plaintiff's retained vocational rehabilitation expert)
Robert Johnson (plaintiff's retained economist)

Defendant’s Trial Witnesses:
Brad James (Cushman's retained metallurgical expert)
David Bizzak (Cushman's retained accident reconstruction expert)
Joanna Berg (defendants' retained neuropsychologist)
Henry Sigal, M.D. (psychiatrist in plaintiff's workers compensation matter)
Timothy Sells (defendants' retained vocational rehabilitation expert)

Affinia/BPI Trial Witnesses:

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