Heavy Lyfting

Partners Christopher Beeman and Ashley Meyers obtained a Defense Verdict after a month long jury trial in Sacramento, California. The jury found that the accident, which resulted in the deaths of two passengers using the Lyft rideshare application, was 100% the result of the negligence of co‐defendants Lyft and its driver.

On December 27, 2017, 22‐year‐old Wyatt Zmrzel contacted Lyft for a ride home for himself and his uncle. The Lyft ridesharing app matched Zmrzel with Lyft driver Rafiullah Amiri. Amiri was supposed to drive Zmrzel from Downtown Sacramento to his home in Loomis. The fastest route would have been via I‐80 East. For unknown reasons, Amiri went Northbound on Highway 99. At approximately 10:30 the Amiri/Lyft van was in the median at Highway 99 and West Catlett Road facing Westbound. Our client was driving Southbound on Highway 99 at 82 MPH in a 65 MPH zone. She saw the van in the median at some distance but believed that it was waiting for her to pass. As she neared the exit for West Catlett Road, the Amiri/Lyft van began to roll into the Southbound lanes of Highway 99 at a slow speed. At two seconds before the collision, Amiri accelerated, placing his van directly into her path of travel in the number 2 lane. The two vehicles collided.

Wyatt Zmrzel died a half hour after the collision. Lyft and Amiri both alleged that our clients’ speed was the cause of the accident, relying heavily on the testimony of their retained accident reconstruction expert. We presented an accident reconstructionist who explained that the key time period to look at was the two seconds before impact when the Lyft driver accelerated, and that, with that small of a window, it would not have mattered if our client was travelling the speed limit because she did not have enough time to avoid the fatal collision.

The jury rejected the arguments regarding our client’s speed and found that while she was negligent, her negligence was not a substantial factor in causing the accident. Plaintiffs asked the jury for an award of $35 million. Lyft suggested an award of $3 million. The jury verdict was for $6 million against Lyft and Amiri solely. The verdict was an emotional one for our client who now has closure following a traumatic accident and very lengthy litigation.