Our Clients v. John N. Petersen, Inc., James DenBeste and Jim DenBeste Trucking

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Our Clients v. John N. Petersen, Inc., James DenBeste and Jim DenBeste Trucking

$2.265 million settlement in a wrongful death case in Sonoma County for the surviving wife and adult son of a 56-year-old Caltrans construction inspector who was backed over by a dump truck at a highway construction project just outside Willits. Caltrans contracted with defendant John N. Petersen, Inc. to widen and repave US-101 at the Willits Grade Project. During that project, John N. Petersen, Inc., the general contractor from Eureka in Humboldt County, instructed the dump truck drivers delivering asphalt concrete to back from a staging area to the paving equipment approximately ½ mile down the narrow shoulder of northbound US-101. Defendant John N. Petersen, Inc. also instructed the dump truck drivers to not drive over the freshly laid pavement in the two adjacent traffic lanes as they drove along the shoulder around several significant curves in the roadway. Defendant John N. Petersen, Inc. failed to provide a spotter for the dump truck drivers until the trucks got within 300 feet of the paving equipment. A nearby brush fire raised the concern of defendant John N. Petersen, Inc.’s superintendent and chief safety officer of the project, who walked down the shoulder of US-101 with the Caltrans inspector toward the fire to determine whether it presented a hazard to the crew of the project. As they walked down the shoulder side-by-side, defendant James DenBeste, truck driver from Sonoma County, backed his dump truck full of hot asphalt concrete down the same shoulder. The pedestrians never heard the functioning backup alarm on the dump truck due to significant ambient noise from the helicopter and other fire suppression aircraft circling above, the construction equipment, and the public traffic on US-101. Mr. DenBeste never saw the pedestrians and backed over them with his dump truck, instantly killing our clients’ decedent (the Caltrans inspector). Defendant John N. Petersen, Inc. failed to safely manage this US-101 construction project. This settlement appears to exceed the highest reported jury verdict for a wrongful death case in Sonoma County history.

Jeffrey R. Smith

Jeffrey R. Smith

Managing Partner

Robert B. Waldsmith

Robert J. Waldsmith

Partner, 1999

William B. Smith

William B. Smith

Partner, 1978

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There are two things to establish in any motor vehicle accident case: the cause of the accident (fault) and the full cost of the injuries and losses. As we prepare your case, we will investigate both of these.


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Claims related to sports and recreation injuries can be complicated. These cases often include issues involving waivers and the “assumption of risk” defense.


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When you or a loved one suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI), life changes dramatically. Even mild TBIs can lead to years of recovery and rehabilitation.


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The personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP have more than 100 years of combined experience guiding clients through the legal process.

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