Asam Family Remembered

We Remember Lost Members of the Asam Family.

Michael Asam, age 41, Father
Shannon Asam, age 40, Mother
Brennan Asam, age 14
Blaine Asam, age 11

“The Washington State Department of Transportation has stated, “Millions of dollars are spent each year to make highways safer and the roadside features more forgiving to errant drivers. Why, then, do we tolerate parked or abandoned vehicles to remain along our highways for extended periods of time? We have designed standards that require a ‘clear zone’ on limited access highways. Nothing can be placed in this zone without providing protection to the motorist in the form of a guardrail, barrier, crash cushions, or break-away supports. Yet, we allow heavy vehicles to stand a few feet or even inches from the traveled lanes”

Heavy vehicles due to their size and weight mismatch with lighter vehicles are deadly in crashes along side our roadways. We have shoulders that are too narrow for safe stopping or parking. Heavy trucks and trailers use low candle power red and white reflective tape which is too dim in most conditions to provide safe warning to following motorists. In poor visibility conditions cars may even follow the truck thinking it is moving in an traveled lane, hence the saying in the trucking industry, “Trucks are Targets on Shoulders”. Current U.S. underride guards on trucks and trailers are only effective in crashes to about 25 mph and at higher speeds they can kill.

Please remember and honor the Asam Family by remembering to only stop or park on low speed 25 mph roadways with wide enough shoulders and good visibility or bright street lighting. Place reflective triangles to increase visibility and reaction time for motorists and to avoid cars following the vehicle thinking it is moving in a traveled lane.

See UNSAFE PARKED TRUCKS page for further parking safety information.

CASE INFORMATION
Report Type: Trial Verdict
Court: Los Angeles County Superior Court – Central
Judge: Hon. Marc Marmaro
Case Type: Wrongful Death
Name of Case: Asam v. Ortiz
Docket/Index No.: PC051705
Verdict/Settlement date: 10/25/13

AWARD INFORMATION:
Verdict or Settlement Amount: Verdict: $150,750,000
Fault Apportionment (%): 100% – defendant

PLAINTIFFS:
Kylie Asam, age 13 (age 9 at DOI); Blaine Asam, age 14
(Blaine died on 06/06/13 and Kylie continued his claim as his successor in interest)

Breakdown of award

DEFENDANTS
Defendant 1 Rudolph Ortiz
Defendant 2 Bhandal Bros Trucking Inc.
Insurance Carriers Carolina Casualty

PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY
Law Offices of Brian Brandt,
309 N. Euclid Ave., Upland CA 91786
(909) 932-1162
Christopher Purcell (co-counsel)
Purcell Law
1539 E. 4th Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 884-3006

DEFENSE ATTORNEY
Raymond McElfish
Tyrone Taczauer
Inderjot Hundal
McElfish Law Firm
West Hollywood
(310) 659-4900

PLAINTIFF EXPERT WITNESSES
Dennis Carlson, Carlson Engineering, Tucson, AZ; (520) 623 1620 – Tire Engineer
Dale Dunlap, Expert Engineering Sciences, Inc., San Bernardino; (909) 884-2159 – Highway Safety Engineer
Harold Fisk, M.D., Los Angeles; (310) 657-0942 – Neurologist
Lew Grill, Lew Grill Specialized Services, Billings, MT; (406) 248-2766 – Trucking expert
Ted Kobayashi, Boster Kobayashi & Assoc, Livermore CA; (925) 447-6495 – Accident Reconstructionist
Colin Koransky, Ph.D., Newport Beach; (949) 720-9669 – Psychologist
David Krauss, Ph.D., Exponent, Los Angeles; (310) 754-2749 – Lighting and vision
Stephanie Rizzardi, Rizzardi Economic Associates; (626) 229.0304 – Economist
Kenneth Solomon Ph.D., Woodland Hills; (818) 348-1133 – Human Factors/Biomechanics

DEFENSE EXPERT WITNESSES (CORKY’S)
Timothy Long, P.E., Accident Research & Biomechanics, Valencia
Jennie McNulty, Vavoulis & Weiner, LLC, Los Angeles
Anthony Stein, Ph.D., Safety Research Associates, La Canada CA
Robert Scheibe, Ph.D., GT Engineering, Redmond WA
Nicholas Carpenter, Ph.D., Collision Dynamic Analysis, Laguna Niguel CA
James Lineback, M.D., Newport Beach CA
Richard Carr, Henderson NV
Arnold Purisch, Ph.D., Laguna Hills CA
Andrew Kenny, Nipomo, CA

DESCRIPTION OF CASE

At approximately 5 a.m. on November 22, 2009 Rudolph Ortiz, age 73, an employee of and driver for Bhandal Bros Trucking, Inc. pulled his 18 wheeler off the 210 freeway and parked on the shoulder. Mr. Ortiz had only obtained his commercial driver’s license 2 years previously at the age of 71. Shortly thereafter, Michael Asam, age 41, and his family were on their way to a Thanksgiving holiday in Oregon. Michael Asam was driving a GMC Yukon pulling a utility trailer when he struck a piece of roadway debris causing the left front tire of the trailer to lose pressure. As Mr. Asam made an emergency maneuver to get off onto the shoulder, he collided with the back of the parked Bhandal Bros truck causing he, his wife Shannon, age 40, and his oldest son Brennan, age 14, to become pinned underneath the wreckage. The two youngest children, Blaine, age 11, and Kylie, age 9, managed to escape through a broken rear window and attempted to open the door to get their mother out of the car without success. A fire started in the engine compartment of the SUV and began to spread.

After several minutes Blaine and Kylie were able to flag down a passing motorist on the highway who also attempted to free Shannon Asam from the wreckage including using a fire extinguisher and attempting to put out the fire by shoveling dirt from the shoulder of the road onto the engine. He also made 2 emergency calls attempting to get help. After 10 minutes of his efforts, the fire became too large and as Mrs. Asam pleaded for her life, she, Michael and Brennan burned to death in front of her children. All the while, the truck driver remained in his cab.

DESCRIPTION OF INJURIES/DAMAGES

Kylie Asam and her brother Blaine survived the collision. Blaine died in June of 2013 shortly before the matter was scheduled to go to trial. Kylie brought an action for the wrongful death of her father, mother and older brother as well as bringing an action on behalf of her brother Blaine’s estate for those wrongful deaths. Kylie Asam also sought recovery for the negligent infliction of emotional distress as a result of her watching her family members burn to death.

DATE, TIME AND PLACE OF ACCIDENT OR OCCURENCE

November 22, 2009, approximately 5 a.m., the 210 freeway approximately 1/2 mile east of the Sunland Blvd. exit

OTHER COMMENTS

The defendant truck driver had told at least 3 different stories as to why he was parked on the shoulder of the freeway, including his original story that he was there to sleep, and telling an officer that he had stopped to urinate. He later claimed he had a headache and urinate which he came up the day after the incident after having contacted his employer. The jury found Mr. Ortiz to be not credible. In closing arguments, plaintiff asked for total damages in the sum of $130 million and the jury awarded an additional $20 million above and beyond what plaintiff had requested.

Settlement Negotiations:
Demand: $24 million – CCP 998 offer          Offer: 1 million – CCP 998 offer