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Paoli & Purdy Secure $9.5M Settlement for Dangerous & Defective San Bernardino Road

Pipes Canyon Road is a two-lane, rural roadway west of Joshua Tree in San Bernardino County, California. The road contains a broken back curve, or compound curve, with two turns separated by a short, straight tangent. Signage cautioned of the first curve but failed to alert motorists of the second 90-degree turn that immediately followed a rise in elevation. With no warnings, the ascending road obstructed the view of the next turn. Due to these dangerous conditions, a catastrophic accident occurred when Anthony Vargas led his motorcycle club of 25 riders on a scenic afternoon ride down the treacherous road.

Anthony rode westbound on his Harley Davidson around 35 to 45 miles per hour, slower than the speed limit of 55. He was unaware of the sharp, leftward turn beyond the crest of the roadway. As Anthony rounded the first curve, he glanced at his mirror briefly to ensure everyone was safe. In that split second, he deviated onto the gravel-filled shoulder, hit a dirt berm, and was launched approximately 20 feet from his bike before landing on a rock. His cervical spine fractured, ultimately paralyzing him. 

First responders airlifted Anthony to a nearby hospital, where doctors told his wife he had less than a one percent chance of surviving. She was referred to Court Purdy and Bill Paoli of Paoli & Purdy, a formidable duo with a successful track record litigating against large governmental entities. Bill and Court needed to demonstrate that the county’s road design was defective and dangerous. However, the case was fraught with challenges.

Bill deposed a multitude of witnesses, experts, first responders, and others to get a sense of the accident and road design. He discovered that multiple eyewitnesses observed an ambulance arrive at the scene but also fail to notice the curve. As a result, the driver nearly collided with a fire engine, laying down a 100-foot skid mark. Bill also revealed that the surrounding community requested the county improve the road after residents experienced several near misses.

Court argued the county’s design immunity was not applicable because the road unreasonably deviated from the California Highway Design Manual (HDM). In addition, when asked to provide the road’s construction blueprints, the public agency could not locate it due to its age. Finally, Court contended the road did not offer enough line of sight or the ability to identify an upcoming curve based on the HDM’s requirements. Indeed, Bill and Court retained a traffic engineer who conducted a field test at the scene and found the road had no line of sight. 

Their case brimming with complex data, minutia, and expert testimony, Bill and Court called on DK Global to synthesize their evidence into a comprehensible presentation. Additionally, they looked to convey the devastation the accident left on Anthony and his family with a day-in-the-life video capturing their daily struggle, showing why they deserved monetary relief to receive the utmost care.

The presentation began with an overview of the roadway, stating San Bernardino County’s use of white reflector paddles to warn drivers of the turn were ineffective and indistinguishable during the day. After Anthony’s disastrous accident, the county installed nine chevron alignment signs at the curve. Then, CT scans of his broken cervical spine were displayed while a narrator recounted his hospital stay. To quantify his damages and future medical expenses, Anthony’s lifecare plan was listed and calculated. Finally, the day-in-the-life video captured his daily and exhausting routine, which required round-the-clock care and assistance from his wife. Anthony’s wife and children shared the trauma the accident left them with as they fight to move past the worst day of their lives and persevere as a family.

After three unsuccessful mediations, Bill and Court attended a fourth meeting with San Bernardino County’s Board of Supervisors and agreed to a settlement of $9,500,000, an amount to provide Anthony and his family with essential care going forward.

For over 20 years, Court Purdy and Bill Paoli of Paoli & Purdy, PC have specialized in representing their clients in civil litigation, personal injury, product liability, and environmental law. As members of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Bill and Court have attained millions of dollars in compensation against large governmental entities throughout California. Recently, Bill and Court were awarded the 2020 Orange County Trial Lawyer Association’s “Top Gun Trial Lawyers of the Year.”

Court Purdy has earned a Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review “Distinguished” award for his legal expertise.

Bill Paoli has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” for 16 years. His successful track record in all his professional endeavors has earned him a 10.0 "Superb" peer review rating through Avvo, among other honors.

"I have yet to run into anyone at DK Global that hasn't been professional, that hasn't been very cognitive of our client's feelings and the trauma they are going through. It's been eye opening to watch that process."
William Paoli - Paoli & Purdy, PC
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