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John Carpenter Attains Record $15M Settlement Against Napa County

It was a serene Spring day along the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, where shady trees and elegant wineries decorate the road. However, the day turned bleak when a Napa County dump truck driver hauling nearly 30,000 pounds of asphalt crashed into the back of a small sedan with a colossal amount of force. John Carpenter of Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley attained a record $15 million settlement during mediation using a crash reconstruction and an overview of the Plaintiff’s catastrophic injuries.

20-year-old Diana was in the rear passenger seat of a Honda Accord while her two best friends sat upfront. They stopped by a strawberry patch on their way to a family member’s house to get some fresh fruit. As they waited and signaled to turn left into the parking lot, the massive truck slammed into the back of their car at 45 miles per hour, only braking post-impact. The destruction to the vehicle looked fatal. The impact propelled Diana forward, and she struck the back of her friend’s head with her face. Miraculously, Diana survived, though she suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, lacerations, and multiple orthopedic fractures.

First responders took Diana to a nearby hospital, where she remained in a coma. When she awoke, she had no recollection of the accident. MRIs of her brain revealed bilateral dead brain tissue and damage to her frontal lobe – the area regulating emotions, speech, and more. Doctors consulted with Diana and her family about how her brain injury would manifest into early-onset dementia in her 30’s. However, given the magnitude of the crash, Diana made a remarkable recovery after several months. She resumed jogging three times a week and had no neck or back complaints. Unfortunately, her cognitive impairments persisted, aggravating her pre-existing psychiatric difficulties. As Diana attempted to piece her life back together, she contacted John Carpenter to help her attain justice against the county.

Using truth, love, and empathy, John looked to communicate to the Defense how devastating the crash was for Diana. He got to know Diana’s life story; she learned English as a second language, was an avid reader, and excelled in her high school English classes, attaining ACT/SAT scores in the 93rd percentile. John encouraged Diana to resume her education at a state university as he did everything in his power to hold Napa County accountable.

John filed Diana’s lawsuit, focusing on communicating the unseen truth: Diana’s mental health and cognition worsened after the collision. However, as Diana continued her education with some accommodations, her grades were better than before the crash. Consequently, the Defense attempted to undermine the severity of Diana’s brain injury.

John retained a neuropsychologist, who determined Diana’s post-incident IQ was 98. Incredibly, the Defense’s neuropsychological experts who evaluated Diana agreed! John then brought on an educational psychologist who used Diana’s high school ACT/SAT scores to translate her pre-incident IQ within the range of 118 to 124. Thus, John framed the case around the indisputable fact that Diana lost an astonishing 20 IQ points due to the wreck. To further refute the Defense’s attempts to downplay Diana’s damages, John and his team of experts worked with DK Global to create an animation reconstructing the crash and conveying the gravity of Diana’s impairments.

The animation began with a look at the 24,000-pound Napa County Dump truck loaded with over 28,000 pounds of asphalt. Then, an interior view from inside the Honda Accord depicted the monstrous vehicle careening towards Diana and her friends. DK Global reconstructed the collision with the experts' direction to show the women in the sedan rear-ended with a force equal to a passenger car traveling 162 miles per hour. The incident’s aftermath displayed the crash’s cataclysmic nature before transitioning to illustrations of Diana’s facial fractures. Finally, a 3D overview of Diana’s damages, including her rib fractures, brain bleed, and subdural hematomas, were exhibited alongside her medical imagery.

John shared the video with the Defense and their multiple layers of insurance carriers. After reviewing the video, Napa County’s counsel looked to mediate the case before proceeding to trial. The two sides agreed to an unprecedented $15 million settlement to help Diana move forward with her life.

For over 25 years, John Carpenter of Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley has secured monumental awards for his deserving clients. With a focus on love and truth, John prides himself on attaining justice for those devastated by wrongdoings. In 2017, John was nominated for “Attorney of the Year” by the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and was selected among the “Top 100 Attorneys” by The National Trial Lawyers.

"The video was really effective in communicating our case to the defense... It was a huge part of how we got this case settled for a record amount in Napa County without even having to go to trial."
John C. Carpenter – Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley
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