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Our client v. J&M, Inc.; Classic Blues Water Trucks and Francisco Vigil

$8.9 million settlement for a 21-year-old college student from Pleasanton, California who lost his leg in a construction accident. While working a summer job with Mountain Cascade, Inc. (“MCI”) construction company out of Livermore, California, our client stood behind a MCI water truck coiling the water truck’s hose into a rack attached to the rear of the truck that was parked next to a fire hydrant on a newly built street in a residential development project in Dublin, California. At that time, defendant Francisco Vigil drove another water truck owned by Classic Blues Water Trucks out of Tracy, California, at approximately 15 mph down the same street towards our client. Mr. Vigil had a clear and unobstructed view of our client and his water truck, and could have easily driven around both of them or could have stopped behind them. Nevertheless, Mr. Vigil neither altered his course nor applied his brakes before running directly into our client and the rear of his water truck. The impact crushed our client between the two water trucks and traumatically amputated his right leg near his hip.

Defendant J&M, Inc., an underground utility/pipeline contractor out of Hayward, California, was employed by the same developer who retained MCI at the Dublin Ranch construction project. J&M, Inc. hired Classic Blues Water Trucks to provide water truck services for soil compaction and dust control purposes. J&M, Inc. maintained a Class A contractors license that allowed it to perform underground construction. It did not own any of its own water trucks, but rented water trucks from brokers and several of its own employees. Four key J&M employees owned water trucks and rented them to J&M, including Defendant Douglas Vigil.

Defendant J&M, Inc. denied that it was responsible for the negligence of Francisco Vigil and Classic Blues Water Trucks because they were independent contractors and not its employees. Defendant J&M, Inc. also blamed our client for double parking and blamed his employer for failing to properly train our client.

The evidence secured during discovery established that Francisco Vigil and Classic Blues were unlicensed contractors performing soil compaction, services for which a contractor’s license was required, and hence were conclusively presumed to have been employees of J&M under Labor Code section 2750.5. The evidence also established that Francisco Vigil was J&M’s employee under the rebuttable presumption imposed by Labor Code section 2750.5. Additionally, the evidence established that J&M, Inc. was Francisco Vigil’s special or temporary employer because it had the right to fully exercise (and did in fact exercise) control over the details of his work.

The trial in this case began in Alameda County Superior Court. After the trial judge ruled on various motions, the case settled.