A Cambria woman who was the victim of a violent collision with an intoxicated commercial truck driver won a massive award from a SLO County jury earlier this month.
That jury awarded the victim a little more than $2.1 million in damages, making it one of the larger jury awards handed down in SLO County, according to the Harris Personal Injury Lawyers, who represented the woman in court.
The trial ended a three-year ordeal, which began when the victim, whom the Harris firm didn’t name, was involved in a severe rear-end accident with Paul Anthony Ceja, a delivery driver for Coastline Distributing Inc. According to the Harris firm, Ceja was intoxicated at the time, and had been using heroin. During the trial, the woman’s attorneys presented evidence that Ceja’s employers knew the driver had a history of drug abuse, as well as a suspended license.
The verdict was no easy fight, despite the disturbing circumstances of the accident. According to Ryan Harris, managing attorney for the firm, the company’s insurance carrier Liberty Mutual failed to take responsibility for the accident, offering just $29,000 to settle the case.
“It was somewhat exceptional in light of the facts,” Harris said. “The driver was very intoxicated.”
Harris said that while Liberty Mutual’s actions were surprising, it’s common for insurance companies to “delay, deny, and dispute” in such cases.
“[The courts] are the only way to hold them accountable,” he said.
The $2 million verdict isn’t the fist multi-million dollar jury award in the county. Last year, another SLO jury awarded former UFC champion Chuck Liddell nearly $2 million as one of the victims of a ponzi scheme orchestrated by local developer Kelly Gearhart and others. In 2013, a jury awarded $7.7 million to the parents of a developmentally disabled woman who died during a struggle with her caretakers.