Southern California Gas Co. (SoCal Gas) recently agreed to pay $46 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a motorcyclist who was struck and critically injured by a company driver who suffered an epileptic seizure and lost control.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Jason Lo, 30 at the time, was stopped at a red light on February 13, 2017, when a SoCal Gas pickup truck suddenly rear-ended him. Lo and his motorcycle were lodged under the truck during the collision and dragged for more than 430 feet, according to the police report.
Other drivers pulled their vehicles over and surrounded the pickup to get the driver to stop as he headed toward a freeway on-ramp, and he was arrested on the spot. Consolazio later pleaded guilty to hit-and-run driving in the collision with the motorcyclist. He admitted he had suffered previous epileptic seizures and never knew when he would suffer from one even though he took medication. He was advised by a physician not to drive. The jury found Consolazio had acted with malice, oppression or fraud, which initially called for punitive damages to be assessed against him.
Lo had worked at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo and had been married for about six months at the time of the accident. He nearly lost his right leg, was drained of approximately forty percent of his blood, underwent several reconstructive surgeries and is scheduled for even more operations, according to his attorneys. His leg remains severely disfigured and skin and muscle from other parts of his body have had to be removed in an attempt to rebuild it. The motorcyclist and his wife are now expecting their first child.
“Amputation of his right leg remains a threat that must be monitored for life,” according to a statement from the legal firm representing the couple.
Attorney Brian Panish said, “The winner in this case is the civil justice system, which again proved that disputes can be resolved by twelve members of the community. The Lo family will live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives.”
The couple’s other attorney, Dan Dunbar, said Lo “has served his country honorably and deserves nothing less than being fully compensated for the horrific injuries he suffered. The jury’s verdict makes it clear that they agreed.”
Consolazio’s driver’s license was suspended in 2012. He eventually returned to work, but continued to have seizures, including one that occurred while he was at work, Panish said. He ultimately admitted in court to having a total of ten prior seizures. SoCal Gas had to have been aware of Consolazio’s condition.
The company issued the following statement: “SoCal Gas took responsibility very early in the litigation process and admitted liability for our driver’s actions because they occurred during the course and scope of his employment. We respect the jury’s role in deciding the verdict and extend our sincere condolences to Mr. Lo and his family for the injuries and hardship they have endured.”
Panish said, “The settlement rched by the parties after the jury’s substantial verdict will enable this young couple to move forward, build a family and get Captain Lo the medical care he will need in the future.”