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Nick RowleyKaren ZahkaKatie MarshallLee ChristieSean Claggett

Nick Rowley · Karen Zahka · Katie Marshall · Lee Christie · Sean Claggett

Personal Injury, Motor Vehicle v. Motorcycle, $60,687,491 Verdict

TLU Icon April 12, 2024 5:30 PM||TLU n Demand

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On April 25, 2017, Chris Dugan (then 37 years old, with a 7 year old daughter) was driving his motorcycle going westbound on Rockville Road in Indianapolis. He was exiting the Speedway Gas Station on the corner of Rockville Road and High School Road. Unbeknownst to him, Tesla employee, Kyle Kaszuba, was sitting in Tesla's Ford F-250 maintenance truck in an area enclosed by double yellow lines on each side right before a cement median. Kaszuba was there to make a left-hand turn across two lanes of oncoming traffic to enter an abandoned lot next to the Speedway. He testified at his deposition that he was doing this to avoid traffic at the stoplight and avoid being late for work at Tesla. Kaszuba chose a 3 second gap between two oncoming vehicles, hit the gas pedal and broadsided Chris Dugan. Chris and his motorcycle were dragged 19 feet. Kaszuba testified in his 2018 deposition that the sun was in his eyes. He had told the police at the scene that he could not see the motorcycle through the sun. A difficult fact in the case was that Chris Dugan made his right hand turn to get behind a big white truck at the very same moment Kaszuba started his left turn. At the exact moment Mr. Dugan began his turn onto the roadway he was not visible to Kaszuba. This was shown by video footage from the Speedway.

Christopher Dugan suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and partial left foot amputation. In March 2024, after seven years of litigation and Tesla’s hiring of at least four different law firms, the attorneys for plaintiff were able to obtain justice for Chris.

The case dealt with the following issues:

  1. Reframing not wearing a helmet – Indiana law does not require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, but we were concerned jurors would still hold this against him, particularly where a brain injury is at issue.
  2. Chris has a prior brachial plexus injury from an earlier motorcycle crash.
  3. Chris has a prior TBI from an earlier motorcycle crash.
  4. Chris has a drinking history.
  5. The defendant Tesla driver was sympathetic. Young guy in his 20’s who cried at his deposition and was crying at counsel table throughout the trial. He also prayed at the scene.
  6. Competency – ensuring that our client could testify at trial.
  7. A contentious battle with defense. Tesla hired at least 4 different law firms, with each more aggressive than the last. Quinn Emmanuel were the trial lawyers. They had 15+ lawyers in the courtroom for Tesla. They would serve and file motions regarding issues happening live while a witness was on the stand.
  8. Bifurcation and why it worked for us with this case.
  9. Proving 24/7 care was necessary.

In the first phase of the trial, the jury found that Kaszuba/Tesla was 70% at fault, and our client, Chris, was 30% at fault. On March 13, 2024, the jury awarded a verdict in the amount of $60,687,491, which was reduced to 30%, to: $42,481,243.