Are you okay? I ask as Clay Arnold walks briskly past my desk towards his office. I notice immediately that his usual energetic demeanor has an intensity that could be anger, yet there is a sadness in his eyes I had not yet experienced.
No, I am not, he states, while still on the move.
I am worried. In the seven years I had worked for his plaintiffs personal injury law firm, I had not seen Clay in this distraught state of mind. I wondered what could make him this upset. He had been taking the deposition of a police officer in a big rig tractor trailer accident.
I get up from my desk and follow him into his office. He is sitting at his desk staring blankly out the window. I ask, Do you want to talk about it?
Can you give me a minute? he asks.
Whenever you are ready, I reply as I quietly close his door and head back to my desk.
Rewind two years. A gentleman phones the Arnold Law Firm stating that his father and sister-in-law were killed by a big rig tractor trailer on a major highway while they were returning home from having dinner. He also stated that his brother and mother were injured very badly in the accident. We immediately sent out our private investigator to obtain photographs, get the traffic collision report and preserve evidence.
Mr. C. and his wife, of over 50 years, had invited their son and his wife for an evening out to dinner. They were traveling in the slow lane of Highway 99 in San Joaquin County, California. Mr. C. was driving and his son was in the passenger seat. Mrs. C. was seated in the back seat, behind her son. The daughter-in-law was in the back seat, directly behind Mr. C. It was an enjoyable evening for the two couples, who always had a great time going to dinner together.
A big rig tractor trailer heading in the opposite direction on Highway 99 was traveling at an unsafe speed when his tire blew out, causing him to lose control. The truck crossed through the center of the highway, easily destroying the oleander bushes, across the fast lane, crashing into the side of Mr. C.s vehicle, instantly killing Mr. C. and his daughter-in-law. The truck driver was killed in the accident.
Mr. C.s son assisted his mother out of the vehicle and they sat on the guardrail, waiting for the police and ambulance to arrive. Though they survived; they were seriously injured. It was unknown how they managed to exit the vehicle before the police arrived.
The police photograph was horrific!
Clay Arnold took on this case against 10 defendants who would not give Mr. Arnold the time of day. Instead, they chose to point the at-fault finger at each other, forcing Mr. Arnold into immediate litigation. The tire that blew out on the tractor trailer was supposedly a brand new tire. Through extensive litigation, it was determined that a business entity installed a re-treaded tire instead of a new tire. It was discovered that the tractor trailer driver had tested positive for a controlled substance.
These innocent people had their lives destroyed through a series of extreme negligence when all they wanted to do was go home after a nice dinner and family time together.
Mrs. C. and her sons physical injuries healed very slowly. They were never mentally healed.
Clay Arnold was more than willing to take on all 10 defendants before a jury but feared for his clients further damage in reliving this indescribable nightmare. Many depositions were taken to proceed with the case, which brings us back to the deposition of the police officer who first responded to the accident scene.
Later in the afternoon, Clay Arnold advised me that he had settled the case against all defendants after many phone calls. I asked him how this could be possible since the many defendants had refused to deal fairly with our clients. Mr. Arnold advised me that the police officer testified in deposition that morning, when he arrived at the scene, that Mrs. C was coughing and choking. When asked if the officer knew why she was choking, he advised the lawyers in the deposition that she was choking on the brain matter of her deceased husband.
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865 Howe Avenue,
Sacramento, CA 95825
Phone: (916) 777-7777
Fax: (916) 924-1829