No punitive damages in lawsuit over crash that hurt 6-year-old twins on Menlo Park sidewalk

A judge has denied a second request to include punitive damages in a lawsuit filed against an elderly driver who crashed into 6-year-old twin brothers on a sidewalk in downtown Menlo Park.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Lisa Novak issued the ruling on April 4.

"The facts as alleged do not suggest defendant's conduct was intentional, despicable or oppressive. Alleging that he was elderly, had been in an accident the year prior, and had his driver's license subsequently 'suspended' and then renewed does not rise to the level of malice, fraud or oppression," she wrote, according to court documents.

The plaintiffs, the Cadigan family, filed the lawsuit against Edward Nelson, a 90-year-old Woodside resident at the time of the Oct. 17 crash. His BMW SUV struck the boys as they walked along Santa Cruz Avenue near Walgreens with a nanny and their older brother.

The crash broke one twin's arm and left the other boy in critical condition; he was released from Stanford Hospital following a five-week stay and multiple surgeries.

The Cadigan family sought punitive as well as general damages for injuries ranging from multiple, extensive skin grafts and lower-body damage; orthopedic and soft-tissue damage to the upper body; and emotional trauma.

A judge dismissed their first request for punitive damages, but allowed the family's attorneys to file an amended complaint. The April 4 ruling prohibits a third attempt.

The amended complaint claimed Mr. Nelson was involved in an accident in Menlo Park on Nov. 8, 2012, and had his license suspended by the DMV as a result until it was re-issued in August 2013. Therefore, the complaint alleged, he should have known "it was not safe" for him to drive.

However, as the Almanac first reported, police records show that the 2012 accident involved another driver hitting Mr. Nelson's car when the driver backed out of a parking space near Safeway. Investigators determined Mr. Nelson was not at fault, which calls into question whether the DMV would even have had grounds for suspending his license.

The lawsuit is now scheduled for mediation on April 16.


Like this comment
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2014 at 3:28 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Dah.... no third bite of the apple.

Like this comment
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Why doesn't well-to-do Woodside attorney, Ed Nelson, get some cajones, step up to the plate, and reimburse the Cadigan family for the expenses and grief his reckless driving has caused them? Come on, Ed, show the community you have at least some modicum of ethics!

Like this comment
Posted by Been there
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 10, 2014 at 4:44 pm

The judges decision does not deny payment to the family for medical expenses and pain and suffering. It denies punitive damages, which the facts do not support. This is an attempt to extract as much money at possible from Nelson. Medical bills and pain and suffering will be paid. According to the family that is not enough for the "Golden Cure" where enough gold will be the cure.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Have the victims fully recovered from this tragedy yet or are they still undergoing medical treatment and physical therapy half a year later?

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 10, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Pearl -

If you've ever been in an accident, you know that (a) you don't pay damages in advance and (b) the insurance companies settle these matters.

Your comment is ridiculous.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2014 at 11:39 pm

These lawsuits are necessary because the perp did NOT settle with the victims.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Just from the description here, I'm guessing that the direct medical expenses alone (not counting rehab, etc) are well above your typical auto insurance coverage. Even if the perp had an additional umbrella insurance policy, that could easily be exceeded by months of hospitalization. Everything else is coming out of his pocket, so he has good reason to stall.

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