Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn is a nationally renowned plaintiff’s firm with a history of significant results in challenging personal injury cases. Indeed, the firm has recovered more than $500 million for its clients since its founding in 1980. And 2016 proved no different, with the firm achieving a result that was recognized by Leaders in the Law as Northern California’s top settlement of the year.
That result, a $24 million recovery in a devastating auto accident, involved several complicated issues. But partner Timothy Tietjen was able to secure a settlement ensuring his client, the woman injured in the crash, would receive the necessary medical care. “Our mission as a firm is to help clients in these tragic cases improve their quality of life and find some light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.
Tietjen’s client, 27-year-old Rebecca Forkey, was driving north on Interstate 680 when she was forced off the road by the driver of an Acura SUV, who was himself swerving to avoid the impaired driver of a Toyota Highlander. Forkey suffered a permanent spinal cord injury in the rollover, among other injuries.
Although the Toyota driver had been on prescription drugs at the time of the accident, Forkey’s main lawsuit was ultimately against the Acura driver—an employee of an Acura dealership who had reported the Toyota driver to 911 for erratic driving, but then ignored the dispatcher’s warning to stay away from the Toyota. “Our initial obstacle was overcoming the police report determination that the fault of the accident was entirely that of the impaired driver, instead of the wannabe Good Samaritan,” Tietjen says. “But the police conclusion was made without access to the 911 call logs, and by obtaining those we were able to show that it was the Acura employee who caused the accident.”
With the Acura dealership as a central defendant in the case, Tietjen also faced a daunting independent-contractor defense (the argument that an employer is not liable for the torts of an independent contractor). Still, he rejected an initial $17 million settlement offer, and eventually the case se led for $24 million.
“It was a hard-fought case, but we wanted to ensure that Rebecca would be fairly compensated for her catastrophic injuries,” Tietjen says. “And we’re proud of the number of cases we’ve taken on like this, where we’ve served as a champion for our client’s cause.”