Earlier this month, a jury in Los Angeles awarded former UCLA football player Nick Ekbatani $35 million for the loss of his leg in a motorcycle accident that occurred in July of 2012. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which was found responsible for 70% of Ekbatani's injuries, was ordered to pay $27.5 million of the award.
Ekbatani, who is now 29, played football for UCLA from 2006 to 2009. One evening in 2012, his life was changed when a taxi driver failed to yield the right-of-way, turning left into him and causing extensive trauma, including the loss of Ekbatani's lower leg. According to his attorney, he was only given a 2% chance of survival at the time of the accident and underwent 13 surgeries.
Since the accident, Ekbatani has become a motivational speaker and teaches fitness classes. Recently, at South High in Torrance, he told listeners, “It's been four and a half years, and obviously it's been up and down, ebb and flow, completely nonlinear, but I'm just grateful to be on the other side of things and walking and so just grateful to be alive and obviously grateful with this verdict,”
The accident involved a particular intersection on the Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach, an intersection that had already caused multiple collisions which had been reported to Caltrans. During the lawsuit, Garo Mardirossian, Ekbatani's lawyer, argued that this knowledge should have influenced the state of California to make changes to the intersection before the traumatic incident involving the offensive lineman.
The lawsuit also presented evidence which showed that, in 2005, Caltrans ordered double yellow lines to be painted in the intersection to prevent blind left turns such as the one that caused Ekbatani's injuries, but the order was never carried out. Mardirossian used video evidence in the trial to show how the incline leading to the intersection prevents clear sight.
“You know, we have these governmental entities that are supposed to do the right thing for us to keep our streets and highways safe,” Mardirossian said. “And when they themselves come out and see that there's a dangerous condition and yet don't take the necessary steps to correct the problem when they themselves noticed the problem is wrong.”
The lawyer for Caltrans, Jill Siciliano, argued that the accident was completely caused by the taxi driver who collided with Ekbatani, Mesfin Kinfu. Even though Kinfu had made the same turn hundreds of times, she says that in this particular instance he did not hit his brakes or stop before making the turn. “We are here because Mr. Kinfu caused this accident,” Siciliano said. “He cut the corner and he caused Mr. Ekbatani's injuries.” Ekbatani did sue Kinfu in addition to Caltrans, but settled with him before the trial.
If you or someone you love has been injured due to another party's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.