CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Brian Panish delivering his closing argument
Los Angeles, CA - A California state court judge awarded $23.7 million on Wednesday to a motorcycle driver who had part of his leg amputated following a collision with a truck operated by heating and air conditioning company Hajoca Corporation.
The trial, which was webcast live and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network, marked the first in-person personal injury trial in Los Angeles County since the Covid-19 shutdown last March. Judge Stephen Czuleger, who heard the case without a jury, issued his decision the day after hearing closing arguments from mask-wearing attorneys following eight days of testimony.
While Hajoca Corp. admitted some liability for the accident, the parties disputed the amount of liability that should be assigned to plaintiff Steve Rojas, along with the amount of compensation he should receive for his injuries. Rojas’ attorney sought roughly $35 million, while attorneys for Hajoca argued that Rojas, who was 40 years old at the time of the 2017 accident, should receive roughly $5 million.
Judge Czuleger found Hajoca Corp. to be fully liable for the accident, and he awarded Rojas $22.5 million for past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, and non-economic damages. Rojas’ wife received $1.2 million for her loss of consortium claims.
The accident in question occurred when Hajoca employee Kevin Henderson’s truck collided with Rojas’ Yamaha motorcycle at an intersection. Rojas, who prior to the accident worked at a hotel as a manual laborer, argued Henderson drove into the intersection without stopping, but Hajoca insisted the truck was stationary at the time of the impact.
CVN screenshot of defense attorney Paul Motz delivering his closing argument
Both sides presented testimony numerous accident reconstruction experts portraying dueling versions of the crash. Rojas’ attorneys argued he was following all relevant traffic laws at the time of the accident and therefore as a matter of California law could not be held at all liable. Hajoca suggested Rojas was weaving between stopped cars, and that their truck was stationary at the time of impact.
Given the substantial damages at issue in the case, both sides had representation from prominent attorneys.
Rojas was represented by Brian Panish and Tom Schultz of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, one of the most prolific personal injury firms in California.
Hajoca was represented by Paul Motz, a Chicago-based attorney with Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney who focuses his practice on catastrophic personal injury defense.
Attorneys for both sides did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gavel-to-gavel footage of the full trial is available with a subscription to CVN's video library, which contains hundreds of civil jury trials from California and throughout the country.
The case is captioned Steve O. Rojas and Sandra v. Acevedo v. Hajoca Corporation, case number BC689703, in the Superior Court for the State of California in Los Angeles County.
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