On a cold winter afternoon on January 29, 2009, the last thing Renan Espinoza was looking for was a way to make a name for himself as having received one of the largest verdicts ever against American Family Insurance Company. Mr. Espinoza is a 50-year-old Honduran immigrant and naturalized U.S. Citizen who worked as a local carpenter. On that fateful afternoon in 2009, Mr. Espinoza was riding as a passenger in a car being driven by his wife and was completely unaware of the ordeal that awaited him.
Mr. Espinoza's vehicle was rear-ended by an inattentive driver as his vehicle was traveling on Stout Street near the Convention Center. After the car accident, Mr. Espinoza exited his vehicle to assess the damage and exchange information with the driver who had just rear-ended his car. Right when Mr. Espinoza stopped between the two stopped cars to assess the damage, another large vehicle driven by a woman named Mary Thomas rear-ended the stopped cars, pinning Mr. Espinoza's leg between his bumper and the bumper of the first contact vehicle.
Mr. Espinoza's left leg was crushed. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital and underwent a series of surgeries over the next 17 days. Mr. Espinoza's leg was so badly crushed that he needed to have skin grafted from his neck all the way to his lower back. He also had a fixator device placed on his leg that painfully added bone length to his crushed leg. In all, Mr. Espinoza incurred over $150,000 worth of medical expenses.
Mary Thomas, the at-fault driver, had auto insurance through American Family. After the auto accident, American Family spent the next four years undertaking every legal maneuver possible to avoid their ultimate day of reckoning in court. On January 22, 2013, the trial that Mr. Espinoza had patiently waited for finally began.
Before the trial began, American Family had several opportunities and several years to fairly compensate Mr. Espinoza for his injuries. Nevertheless, American Family never offered more than $25,000. American Family and their attorney must have believed that a Denver, Colorado jury would not be interested in and sympathetic to Mr. Espinoza. Instead, American Family believed that a jury would care very little about what happened to Mr. Espinoza.
American Family's attorney began the trial by pointing the finger of blame at everyone else except for his client, Mary Thomas. American Family's attorney promised to prove to the jury that Mr. Espinoza was largely responsible for his own injuries. He also blamed the driver from the first car collision and made excuse after excuse for Mary Thomas and her negligent driving.
After days of intense testimony, the case was submitted to the jury and the jury stayed late into the evening on January 23, 2013 to reach a verdict. The jury found in Mr. Espinoza's favor and awarded him $115,000 in non-economic damages (for pain and suffering), $757,600 for economic damages, and $125,000 for Mr. Espinoza's disfigurement to his leg. Even though the jury found that Mr. Espinoza and the other driver were somewhat at fault for the collision, the total value of Mr. Espinoza's verdict against American Family still amounts to nearly $1 million.
Mr. Espinoza wanted his day in court and his story told. At Anderson Hemmat, we strive to achieve justice every day and we congratulate Mr. Espinoza for having the courage to stand up to American Family.