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Animation Shows Distracted Driver Liable for Running Man Over in Lighted Crosswalk

On a quiet night along the coastal community of La Jolla, California, a distracted driver approached a lighted crosswalk. He failed to notice that a pedestrian named Glen Ruknaitis was making his way across the street. The driver barreled through the flashing intersection at 35 miles per hour, striking Glen. Mr. Ruknaitis was flung across the windshield and landed on the jagged asphalt, suffering an overwhelming number of injuries. Using an animated reconstruction of the incident, Frederick Schenk of CaseyGerry and Jillian Hayes of Hayes Law, APC obtained a confidential settlement for Mr. Ruknaitis.

Glen was an artist and nomadic fixture in the Windansea beach neighborhood. He was taken to a local hospital where radiologists identified 16 fractures throughout his body. Mr. Ruknaitis remained there for days until the community noticed he was missing from his usual whereabouts. After a friend of his went to check on him at the local art gallery where he lived, the owner shared what happened. To help Mr. Ruknaitis recover and get justice, his friend referred Jillian Hayes, a former associate at CaseyGerry, to represent him.

Jillian and partner Frederick Schenk met with Mr. Ruknaitis at the hospital three days after the incident. Initially, Mr. Ruknaitis was wary of their intentions, but as Fred and Jillian established rapport, he welcomed their help.

Due to the severity of Mr. Ruknaitis’ injuries, Fred and Jillian focused on liability. They hired investigators and an accident reconstructionist to collect evidence at the location of the collision. Meanwhile, they found witnesses who saw the accident occur and obtained their testimonies. Finally, after receiving the police report, they discovered the Defendant worked as an accountant and was leaving a client’s house at the time of the crash. Thus, the two focused on proving the Defendant was under the scope of his employment and that his employer was also accountable.

Because of Mr. Ruknaitis’ appearance and lifestyle, the Defense tried to frame him as an intoxicated transient who jumped into the driver’s path. As a result, Fred and Jillian determined an animated demonstrative would be essential to prevent any ambiguity and false narratives. Fred, Jillian, and their accident reconstructionist worked with DK Global to create an animation of the collision and the Defendant’s point-of-view that night.

The animation commenced with a satellite view of the intersection, highlighting the street signs warning drivers of the crosswalk. Lighting conditions at the time of the incident were recreated, showing Mr. Ruknaitis visible under the surrounding streetlamps. Then, Mr. Ruknaitis activated the beacons in the crosswalk and waited for approaching cars to stop and yield. As he neared the opposite end, the Defendant raced down the street, striking Mr. Ruknaitis. The animation showed how the vehicle didn’t begin braking until after the impact. Finally, the driver’s perspective was recreated using the expert's direction, showing the man occupied with his cellphone as Mr. Ruknaitis traversed the flashing intersection in clear view.

Even with plenty of evidence and expert testimony revealing the driver’s inattentiveness, the Defense filed a motion for summary judgment. After prevailing over the MSJ, Fred and Jillian agreed to mediation before trial. As a result, they obtained a favorable and confidential settlement for Mr. Ruknaitis.

For over 42 years, San Diego ABOTA President Frederick Schenk of CaseyGerry has focused his practice on class-action lawsuits, mass torts, personal injury, and representing the survivors of asbestos poisonings. Since 2006, Frederick has been recognized as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” by Best Lawyers and was selected as a “Super Lawyer” for 12 consecutive years.

Jillian Hayes, owner and Managing Partner of Hayes Law, APC, specializes in personal injury and sexual assault litigation. She was recently recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers and listed amongst the "Ones to Watch 2021" by Best Lawyers. Notably, Jillian successfully attained a monumental appeal for a woman burned by a defective battery in the Bolger v., LLC matter.

"What we were able to do in this case, through the work of DK Global consulting with us and our expert, was to show exactly how this incident occurred... together with all of the elements, we told a brilliant story."
Frederick Schenk – Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP
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