A Fresno Fire Department image shows the car accident on Oct. 17, 2017.

published on March 15, 2022 - 2:06 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

A Fresno County jury has returned a multi-million-dollar verdict in favor of a man who received injuries during an accident on Highway 41 in Fresno.

On Monday the jury awarded Luis Viruegas $11.95 million for injuries he sustained during the 2017 accident while he on the job, reported Fresno law firm Miles Sears & Eanni, PC, which represented him.

On Oct. 17, 2017, Viruegas was a passenger in an Isuzu box truck driven by fellow employee Steven Rodriguez. As they approached the Friant Road off-ramp of Highway 41, a State of California truck was stopped in the No. 3 (slow) lane of traffic. Rodriguez attempted to swerve but was unable to avoid hitting the stopped truck.

The Jaws of Life were required to remove Viruegas, Rodriguez and a third co-worker from the truck.


The state employee driving the truck had stopped to move a shelving unit he had observed fall off the vehicle of a local business. He was unable to do so, so he called 911, informing the operator he was going to back up on the freeway away from the shelving unit. Evidence at trial indicated he backed up more than 120 feet before coming to a stop in the lane. Witnesses testified they did not observe flashers operating on the state vehicle before the crash.

Viruegas admitted to not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. The impact between the vehicles involved the front right portion of the Isuzu truck — were Viruegas was seated, according to a news release. A “significant intrusion” into his seating space during the impact left little room for his head to move forward due to impact. The plaintiff argued at trial this is why the lack of a seatbelt did not make a difference in the severity of his injuries.

Following the accident, Viruegas was hospitalized at Community Regional Medical Center for about two months. He suffered significant brain injury along with numerous fractures throughout his body, according to the news release.

He spent more than a year at a brain injury rehabilitation center in Bakersfield. He remains unable to work and requires assistance to care for himself.

The jury found the state employee to be within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, finding him 75% at fault for the accident. The jury found Viruegas 20% at fault for failing to wear his seatbelt and his coworker driver 5% at fault, according to a news release.

The employee of the local business that dropped the shelving unit on the freeway was not found at fault.

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