Jury Socks LA Transit System With $8.35M Verdict Over Deadly Vehicle Collision

Posted by David Siegel on Mar 14, 2016 1:26:12 PM


Plaintiff attorney Nicholas Rowley (left) and defense attorney Mark Weinstein (right) deliver their closing arguments. Click here to see video from the trial. 

Los Angeles - A California state court jury has slammed the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority with an $8.35 million verdict in a lawsuit filed by the family of a Vietnamese immigrant who died after being rear-ended by an MTA vehicle.

The jury voted 9-3 on March 8 following a three-day trial to award $8.28 million in non-economic damages and $75,451 for medical costs and funeral expenses to Xian Lin’s widow Ma Mei Liao and his adult children, Yaer Lin and Lian Lin, according to an attorney representing the family. The MTA had already stipulated to being responsible for the accident, so the trial was limited to determining non-economic damages.

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The award is substantially less than the $80 to $140 million attorney Nicholas C. Rowley of Carpenter Zuckerman & Rowley LLP had asked the jury to award during his closing argument, but it also beat the MTA’s highest pretrial settlement offer of $5 million, Rowley told Courtroom View Network. He claimed the MTA increased their settlement offer to $7 million after the selection of a jury.

“The MTA figured that because the decedent Mr. Lin was an immigrant from China with two adult children from China and a Chinese wife, none of whom worked or speak English, that the MTA could buy them off cheap,” Rowley said. “The MTA lost the trial and got lucky with the verdict being as low as it was.”

Attorneys for the MTA did not respond to a request from CVN for comment.

In addition to the MTA’s responsibility for the accident, the parties had stipulated that Lin, who was originally from Vietnam but immigrated to the United States after spending time in China, had an additional life expectancy of 27.4 years.

Throughout the trial Rowley highlighted the family’s cultural background and the central role Lin played in the lives of his wife and children as patriarch. They relied on him for everything from translating English to learning how to cook American-style Chinese food in the hopes of finding work, and Rowley argued that without Lin, the family would be essentially lost in a new culture to which they had not yet fully assimilated.

Representing the MTA, Mark Weinstein of Veatch Carlson LLP told the jury that while Lin’s family deserved appropriate compensation for his death, Rowley’s suggested damages amounted to “picking numbers out of the air.”

“You have to use your common sense,” he said.

Rowley told CVN the reason for the 9-3 split among the jurors was that some members wanted to award more money, and he suggested the MTA could be on the hook for even greater damages if they appeal the jury’s verdict.

“If we get a chance to retry the case I’ll swing for the fences again,” Rowley said.

The trial took place before Judge Anthony Mohr and was recorded gavel-to-gavel by CVN.   

Ma Mei Liao is represented by Nicholas C. Rowley and Sark Ohanian of Carpenter Zuckerman & Rowley LLP. Yaer Lin is represented by Cortney Shegerian of Shegerian & Associates Inc. Lian Lin is represented by Courtney E. Rowley of The Rowley Law Firm.

The MTA is represented by Mark A. Weinstein, William J. Glazer and David H. Ryan of Veatch Carlson LLP.

The case is Yaer Lin, et al. v. LA County MTA, et al., case number BC546460, in the Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County.

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Topics: Negligence, Transportation, California