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Litigation & Arbitration

Jan. 26, 2024

$42.4M verdict for pregnant woman in a coma from collision

"The issue became, was pleading no-contest equivalent to conviction? We pled it was and won," said plaintiff's attorney Ricardo Echeverria.

A jury in Lancaster awarded $42.4 million to a pregnant mother who has been in a coma since a head-on collision in 2015.

The jury awarded $2 million for past medical expenses; $4 million for future medical expenses; $1.4 million for past and future lost earnings; $5 million for past non-economic damages and $30 million for future non-economic damages. With interest, the award will likely reach $55 million, according to the plaintiff's trial lawyers at Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP. Diana Estevez v. Gregory Kadlec, MC026448 (L.A. Super. Ct., filed July 12, 2016).

The plaintiff, Diana Estevez, had a two year old son and was four months pregnant at the time of the crash. She was put into a coma after the accident happened, and her baby was delivered by cesarean section at 8 months. She was represented at trial by Ricardo Echeverria and Samuel Bruchey of Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP.

The complaint initially named the defendant, Gregory Kadlec, who was driving home from work when the collision occurred. Other defendants were brought in over product liability issues, and let go after discovery, Echeverria said in an interview.

Bringing in Kadlec's employer through the going-and-coming exception was pivotal: Kadlec was required to use his vehicle in the scope of his employment with JT3, a government contractor at Edwards Air Force Base. He was driving home from work on Avenue M in Lancaster when the collision happened.

"We settled with his employer for a confidential amount. It was obviously significant. Then we proceeded against Mr. Kadlec, the driver," Echeverria said.

There were other hurdles. COVID-19 delayed proceedings, Kadlec's insurance company argued that it had settled the case, which the plaintiffs disputed.

Estevez did not have insurance, which meant that she could not seek non-economic damages. But there is an exception if a driver is convicted of a DUI.

"He did not have alcohol in his system; he had prescription meds. The D.A. filed a charge. He pled no-contest to that charge," Echeverria said.

"The issue became, was pleading no-contest equivalent to conviction? We pled it was and won. Because of COVID he got an expungement of that no-contest plea, and it was like it was like it didn't happen."

Echevarria said they were able to argue that the exception applied, because a DUI conviction stays on the driver's record in California.


Antoine Abou-Diwan

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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