LA Jury Asked To Award $84M To Man Struck By Drunk Driver, Watch Gavel-to-Gavel via CVN

Posted by David Siegel on Jun 23, 2023 12:13:31 AM

Parris openings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Khail Parris delivering his opening statement

Los Angeles, CA - A California state court jury heard opening statements Thursday in a lawsuit filed by a man claiming he suffered extensive injuries in a collision with a drunk driver, but the driver’s insurer which intervened in the case disputed the accuracy and severity of his claims.

Plaintiff Victor Montez was involved in a head-on collision with Dennis Perez in 2017, after Perez crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic. Perez later plead guilty to felony-level driving while intoxicated, but at the time of the crash blamed his swerving on hydroplaning on a wet road after extensive rain.

Montez’s attorney, Khail Parris of the Parris Law Firm, told the Los Angeles County jury that the extent of Montez’s injuries combined with testimony from his treating physicians and Perez’s guilty plea should make this a relatively short trial, but that the proceedings could take up to five weeks to complete due to the aggressive defense being mounted by Perez’s insurer, MetLife.

“As soon as MetLife came in the entire case changed, because they are disputing everything,” Parris told the jury.

The full trial is being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

Parris detailed to jurors how Montez, a middle-aged field engineer for a defense contractor, had to be cut out of his truck with the “jaws of life” by emergency responders immediately after the accident. He explained that Montez suffered a severely fractured femur along with serious injuries to his internal organs, requiring the removal of his spleen and multiple reconstructive surgeries.

According to Parris, Montez also suffered back and neck trauma that will eventually require fusion surgery, along with a traumatic brain injury that will allegedly affect him for the rest of his life. He told jurors their case would largely rely on extensive testimony from Montez’s treating physicians, from the trauma surgeons who operated on him in the hours after the accident to his current medical providers, and that he would seek $84 million in damages at the conclusion of the trial.

Parris sharply criticized MetLife for hiring a private investigator to track Montez and his family despite testimony from doctors the insurer hired stating that Montez was not exaggerating the severity of his injuries. He also took issue with the defense’s decision to supposedly sideline their own toxicology expert who conceded that Perez’s blood alcohol level being at twice the legal limit was an obvious source of impairment.

Representing MetLife, attorney Michelle Prescott of Wesierski & Zurek LLP told jurors Montez bore some responsibility for the accident due to supposedly driving at an unsafe speed given the wet road conditions and drinking a 22-ounce beer with dinner an hour before the crash.

She maintained that while Perez was intoxicated at the time of the accident he did indeed lose control of his vehicle due to hydroplaning, and that at a slower speed Montez could have avoided the collision.

MetLife openings

CVN screenshot of defense attorney Michelle Prescott delivering her opening statement

Prescott acknowledged that Montez suffered acute injuries in the direct aftermath of the accident but argued he made a substantial recovery, suggesting he could not have returned to working for a defense contractor on sensitive military equipment with the level of impairment he claimed.

She also told jurors that no mention of brain or spinal injuries appeared in Montez’s medical records until 34 months after the crash, and that while his attorneys would present testimony from a large number of treating physicians, that Montez met many of them through his legal team.

“All of these conditions are being alleged by treating conditions that were referred by his attorneys,” she said.

The full trial, taking place before Judge J. Stephen Czuleger, could take up to 25 days to complete and CVN’s gavel-to-gavel coverage will continue for the duration of the proceedings.

The case is captioned Victor Montez v. Dennis Perez, case number MC027758, in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Topics: California