Jury awards more than $42M to Avon man with traumatic brain injury from crash with Tesla employee

A Marion Superior Court jury awarded an Avon man more than $42 million for serious injuries he suffered in a 2017 motorcycle crash with a pickup truck driven by a Tesla Inc. employee.

The jury returned the verdict Wednesday against Tesla Inc. and its long-time employee Kyle Kaszuba for the accident in which motorcyclist Chris Dugan was severely injured. The jury found Kaszuba 70% responsible for the accident and Dugan 30% responsible.

The 2017 collision occurred in the 6300 block of Rockville Road when Kaszuba, a Tesla service manager, made a left turn in the Tesla-owned Ford Super Duty F-250 maintenance truck across double yellow lines and two lanes of oncoming traffic, according to court records.

Dugan suffered a severe and permanent traumatic brain injury and a partial foot amputation.

Nick Rowley, a trial attorney representing Dugan and a co-founder of Trial Lawyers for Justice, criticized Tesla for failing to take responsibility for the crash and its impact on Dugan’s life for the past seven years.

“Tesla’s ethos can be defined by utter disregard for accountability,” Rowley said in written remarks. “Refusing to accept responsibility can result in big consequences. Tesla’s employee was in a rush that morning trying to shave off time to get to the service center and refused to wait in line with other vehicles who were appropriately making a left hand turn. He cut out of line and did something very dangerous showing a complete disregard for the safety of others on the road. A young father’s life was permanently destroyed. This verdict cannot repair the harm caused, but it will help provide Chris Dugan with the lifetime of care and support he needs.”

Indiana Lawyer reached one attorney representing Tesla, Nicholas Brunette of Reminger Co., LPA. Brunette deferred comment to attorneys with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP., which tried the case on behalf of Tesla. They could not immediately be reach for comment.

Rowley told Indiana Lawyer Thursday it was “hands down a $60 million verdict” for Dugan, with the award amount reduced due to Dugan being found by the jury to have 30% comparative fault.

Rowley said he expects the verdict to be appealed. He said the trial was the first Indiana case to be televised nationally by Courtroom View Network.

In the original lawsuit, it was alleged that Kaszuba was operating the truck in the scope and course of his employment and/or with the express permission of Tesla, Inc., which is the complaint described as vicariously liable for Kaszuba’s negligence.

According to court records, at the time of the collision, Dugan, 37, was on his way to work.

Kaszuba saw a long line in the designated turn lane leading into a gas station, and instead of waiting in line he decided to make a left turn across double yellow lines into an adjoining empty lot, the lawsuit alleged. While making the turn, he broadsided Dugan’s motorcycle which was coming from the opposite direction.

Dugan sustained traumatic injuries including brain hemorrhage, facial and skull fractures, multiple fractures to his legs, pulmonary contusions, a toe amputation, and rib fractures. He underwent brain surgery due to a traumatic brain injury.

He entered inpatient rehabilitation for his traumatic brain injury and multiple orthopedic injuries.

Dugan continues to suffer from severe cognitive dysfunction and the inability to fully communicate, according to his attorneys. He is unable to manage his finances, care for himself or his daughter, work, or enjoy life in any meaningful way.

“Christopher Dugan has a long journey ahead of him due to his brain injury,” added Lee Christie, Dugan’s co-counsel. “This verdict will not restore this doting father, but it will help ensure this family has the resources they need in the absence of its primary caregiver.”

Dugan was represented by Trial Lawyers for Justice, and Christie, Farrell, Lee, and Bell, of Indianapolis.

The case is Christopher Dugan v. Tesla Inc. f/k/a Tesla Motors Inc. and Kyle Kaszuba, 49D04-1705-CT-018411.

This article was first published in The Indiana Lawyer.

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