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County Pays $9,500,000 for Motorcyclist Paralyzed by Dangerous Road

Pipes Canyon Road is a dangerous two-lane rural highway west of Joshua Tree in San Bernardino County, California. It featured a compound curve – two turns separated by a short, straight tangent — that lacked appropriate signage. Residents had made formal requests to the county that while signs cautioned the first curve, motorists weren’t warned of the second 90-degree turn that immediately followed a rise in elevation that blocked the view of the bend. As a result, a life-altering accident occurred when motorcyclist Anthony Vargas rounded the second turn, hit a dirt berm, and was launched 20 feet onto a rock, paralyzing him from the neck down. Court Purdy and Bill Paoli of Paoli & Purdy, PC used a DK Global presentation and day-in-the-life video summarizing San Bernardino County’s failure to amend the dangerous road and the tragic impact on Anthony and his family.

The case was fraught with challenges. First, they needed to establish that the road’s flawed design caused the accident. Bill deposed traffic engineers, eyewitnesses, and other construction experts. He discovered that when emergency responders arrived to help Anthony, they were also unaware of the curve and nearly collided with a fire engine, laying down a 100-foot tire mark.

In addition, Court worked closely with a traffic engineer who examined the road and determined it did not offer any line-of-sight – the ability to identify the upcoming curve based on the California Highway Design Manual’s (HDM) specifications. Therefore, he refuted the county’s design immunity defense by arguing that the road was incorrectly constructed. Furthermore, when Court subpoenaed the road’s construction blueprints, the Defense could not locate the documents due to their old age.

Bill and Court had a solid case but needed to synthesize their evidence, expert-acquired data, and testimonies into a presentation that a jury could understand. They also needed to convey the human impact and consequences of the county’s negligence. As they had in past lawsuits, the duo contacted DK Global. Together, they created a day-in-the-life video that captured Anthony and his family’s daily struggle to overcome the immense trauma the crash caused. Their goal was to secure enough compensation so Anthony could receive the best medical care for the rest of his life.

The presentation commenced with an overview of the roadway, showing that the white reflector paddles used to warn drivers of the turn were indistinguishable during the day. The county installed nine chevron signs at the curve following Anthony’s crash to avoid another accident. A narrator recounted Anthony’s emergency medical care as CT scans of his broken spine were displayed, illustrating his pain and suffering. Next, Anthony’s lifecare plan was outlined and quantified his lost wages, future medical expenses, and damages. Finally, the day-in-the-life video presented the Vargas family’s exhausting routine to provide Anthony with round-the-clock care.

Court and Bill shared the presentation with San Bernardino's board of supervisors before mediation. After three unsuccessful meetings, Bill and Court attended the fourth mediation and agreed to settle the matter for $9,500,000, compensating Anthony and his family for the devastation they experienced.

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. In addition, 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 17 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 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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