A California man and his 3-year-old son reached a $10-million settlement with California DOT for extensive, traumatic injuries they sustained in 2012 when an allegedly improperly installed guardrail manufactured by Trinity Highway Products that their vehicle struck did not perform as it was designed to do.
According to Verdict Search, plaintiffs Mark Pappakostas, 47, and Liam Pappakostas, 3 at the time of the crash, filed the lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court for personal injuries they suffered on Dec. 16, 2012. Named as defendants in the suit are the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans); guardrail installer Midstate Barrier, and guardrail manufacturer Trinity Highway Products.
According to the complaint, Mr. Pappakostas briefly fell asleep while driving his Honda Odyssey on the Guadalupe Parkway in San Jose. The Odyssey veered off the road and collided with the guardrail’s end terminal, which was designed to gate and allow the vehicle to pass through and behind it to a level clear zone. Instead, the guardrail’s rigid metal beam impaled the minivan, amputating Mr. Pappakostas’ right leg and causing multiple severe injuries to Liam’s head and body.
The lawsuit alleged that the guardrail failed because it was not installed properly. Caltrans contracted Midstate Barrier to install the Trinity Highway guardrail, but the various components of the guardrail system were not properly assembled, the complaint alleged. Despite the installation errors, Caltrans approved the work completed by Midstate Barrier. Midstate was subsequently dropped from the lawsuit under the state’s “completed and accepted work doctrine.”
“As to the manufacturer, Trinity, plaintiffs’ counsel asserted that the guardrail end-terminal system was defective in that it was not designed to prevent misinstallation, lacked on-product warnings and instructions, and was accompanied with instructions that were unclear,” according to Verdict Search.
According to the plaintiffs’ counsel, an investigation of more than 14,000 guardrail systems after the Pappakostas’ crash found that the Trinity guardrail end-terminal system at issue was misassembled at 741 other locations throughout California. These improperly installed systems presented a serious impalement hazard. The state has since corrected the guardrails.
According to the lawsuit, $8 million of the settlement goes to Liam, who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a collapsed lung, spinal injuries, multiple bone fractures, a ruptured diaphragm, a lacerated liver, and an open abdomen with bowel evisceration, among other injuries. He has undergone multiple surgeries, is wheelchair bound, and not expected to be able to complete high school or hold employment. Liam’s medical expenses have already topped $6 million.
Mr. Pappakostas, who now wears a prosthetic leg, sought $3 million for his future medical costs. His past medical costs totaled $160,350. The court allocated $2 million of the settlement to his future care.