California Court of Appeals Upholds Judgment in Favor of Driver in San Francisco Pedestrian Accident Case

The California Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a recent car accident case involving a pedestrian who was involved in an accident. She claims that after she took a few steps into the crosswalk she was struck by a van. According to physician testimony at trial, the plaintiff purportedly suffered substantial injuries to her left foot, leg, and fingers, and she became unable to live independently as a result of the accident.

In the case, Vitushkina v. Luminalt Energy Corp., Cal. Ct. App. (2014),  the main issue at trial was whether the woman had already entered the street by the time the van approached, or whether she entered the street at around the same time.

The driver behind the van who purportedly hit the woman stopped at the scene and gave a statement to the police, and he later testified that the woman seemed to have come out of nowhere, from in between two cars that were parked nearby.

Additionally, at trial, an expert witness for the defendant gave her expert opinion that the woman’s foot injury was consistent with her having been run over by the rear wheel, on the left side of the vehicle, rather than having been struck by the front of the vehicle. She also testified regarding her opinions, based on scientific models and calculations, regarding how the incident occurred, at what speed the plaintiff had likely been traveling, and other issues.

The jury entered its verdict in favor of the defendant, which resulted in this appeal. The plaintiff challenged the jury’s verdict on three bases:  that the expert witness for the defense relied on inadmissible hearsay in forming her opinion, that the trial court erred in its instructions to the jury, and that it erroneously denied her motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

Regarding the plaintiff’s challenge as to the expert witness relying on witness testimony in forming her opinion, the court of appeals cited to the rule that it is well-established that an expert witness may testify to the matters that he or she relied upon in forming his or her opinion, as long as that evidence is reasonably relied upon within the profession. Furthermore, the expert witness repeatedly stated that her primary reliance was on the physical evidence in the case, including medical records, accident reports and reconstruction, and analysis of the van and area where the accident occurred. Lastly, the court ruled that an expert witness’ conclusions regarding hypothetical assumptions are acceptable when they are reasonably based upon the evidence in the case.

Regarding the trial court’s instructions to the jury regarding the hearsay statements, the court of appeals found that the trial court’s instructions regarding the statements as being offered not for the truth of the matter asserted, even though they were given some time after the expert had testified, were not improper.

Lastly, regarding the plaintiff’s challenge as to the trial court’s failure to grant the motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the court of appeals found that the evidence in the case was unclear as to whether the plaintiff had entered the crosswalk or not, and that neither driver had seen her in the intersection prior to the accident. The evidence was also unclear as to which part of the vehicle struck the plaintiff. Therefore, there was evidence before the jury to support its finding in favor of the defendant that the driver was not negligent. Thus, the judgment was affirmed.

Contact Sharifi Firm, APC today if you are a victim or a loved one of a victim of a pedestrian accident in California.  We have offices throughout the state and are available now to take your case.  Call for a free, no-obligation consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeals Upholds Written Stipulation in Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published April 8, 2015

California Court of Appeals Upholds Arbitrator’s Monetary Award in Motorcycle Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published April 2, 2015

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