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Truck in wrong lane hits and kills motorcyclist

Accident Type: 
Motorcycle Accident
Incident Date: 
Monday, December 22, 2014
Result Date: 
Tuesday, January 15, 1985
Monetary Result: 

This was a wrongful death case resulting from a motorcycle versus truck collision, on Highway 33, on April 13, 1981, when the motorcycle driver, who was 42 years old at the time, was killed, when struck by the Defendant’s truck in the motorcycle’s lane of traffic. Plaintiffs were the surviving spouse, Paulette, age 38 at the time of the collision, decedent’s son, Christopher Butcher, age 16 at the time of his father’s death, and Terri Butcher Thomas, daughter of decedent, age 17 at the time of the accident. Terri only survived her father by one year, as she was killed in an Amtrak train accident approximately one year after her father’s death, leavi-rig a daughter, decedent’s grandchild.

On the morning of the accident, Defendant Youngblood, employed by Defendant McCullough, and acting within course and scope of his employment, drove a Ford pick-up truck, owned by McCullough, from Bakersfield, to the Ventura office of Defendant McCullough, picked up a grease injector, and started back to Bakersfield on Highway 33, a route he had not taken before. That morning, David Lee Butcher, who was on vacation from his job with the Federal Electric Company as a Senior Technical Analyst, left his Santa Maria home to take a pleasure ride on his motorcycle, a 1980 Yamaha 400, on Highway 166 to Highway 33, to Ventura, and back up Highway 101 to Santa Maria.

Around noon, as the McCullough truck was coming down a long grade on Highway 33, with a sweeping left turn, it collided with the motorcycle. The collision took place in decedent’s lane of travel, approximately three feet from the shoulder of the road.

The motorcyclist died at the scene and was unable to make any statements before he died. There was an eyewitness to the actual impact, a Cal Trans employee, who was sitting in his pick-up. He looked up in time to see the pick-up  the collision, in the motorcyclist’s lane of traffic, but did not see either the pick-up or the motorcycle just before the collision.

The California Highway Patrol investigated the accident and determined the cause of the accident to be Defendant driving on the wrong side of the road. Plaintiffs alleged that the cause of the accident was the negligence of Defendant, Charles Ray Youngblood, in the operation of his truck. It was further alleged that, even if Defendant Youngblood’s testimony was accurate, as to the speed and location of his truck and the location of the motorcycle when Youngblood first saw the decedent, there was ample time for Youngblood to keep to his right and avoid the collision. Defendant contended that the collision took place in the decedent’s lane of traffic because, as he came out of the long curve, he saw the motorcycle about three hundred feet away from him, in his lane, and tried to take evasive action. He whipped the truck to his left, to let the motorcycle go by, and, at that moment, the motorcycle was turning back to the right. Youngblood swerved the truck back to his right, and the motorcycle hit the left side of the truck, including the left side of the metal bed, decedent through the air and causing his death.

Defendant Youngblood was the only eyewitness to the accident who knew in which lane the truck and the motorcycle were located before impact. He contended that there was contributory negligence on the part of decedent, in that he was driving on the wrong side of the road, and that it was Defendant’s evasive action which caused the collison to occur in the motorcyclist's lane of traffic.

The motorcyclies was employed as a Senior Technical Analyst for the Federal Electric Company, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, earning $25,625.60 per year. He had worked at Vandenberg for fifteen years. Plaintiffs sought specials, plus loss of economic support, past and future, at present value, in the amount af $557,119, plus other pecuniary loss. Plaintiffs further sought damages for loss of decedent’s companionship, affection, society, etc., in the amount of $400,000.

Doctor Lovell performed an autopsy on decedent, and determined that there was no alcohol, drugs, or barbituates in the decedent’s blood or urine.

William Otto, (Motorcycle Accident Reconstruction Expert), visited the scene of the accident, made on-site measurements, located debris, directed the taking of aerial photographs of the scene, drove a truck, similar to the one involved in the accident, down the grade and through the accident scene, reviewed depositions and supervised the autopsy protocol. It was the opinion of the expert that the truck could not have operated his truck in the manner he described, without changing the law of physics and leaving a particular type of tire mark on the pavement, which was absent. He felt that Youngblood came out of the curve on the wrong side of the road, and never got back before colliding with the motorcycle, which was on its proper side of the road.

Stephen J. DeCanio, (PhD/Economist), estimated Plaintiffs’ loss of financial support to be in the amount of $338,600.