A new tone appeared in the latest defense filings in a lawsuit over the car crash that pinned 6-year-old twin brothers against a downtown wall in Menlo Park. The defense now asserts the family wasn't at fault and deserves compensation.
The Cadigan twins and their 9-year-old brother were walking along Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park on Oct. 17 when a BMW SUV with the license plate "EN ESQ" jumped onto the sidewalk.
The crash broke one twin's arm and left the other twin in critical condition in the hospital facing a five-week stay and multiple surgeries.
The family seeks punitive as well as general damages on behalf of all three boys; the lawsuit describes their injuries as ranging from multiple, extensive skin grafts and damage to the lower body; orthopedic and soft-tissue damage to the upper body; and emotional trauma.
Mr. Nelson, the 90-year-old driver of the car, at first denied all responsibility for the resulting injuries. Documents initially filed in opposition to the Cadigan family's lawsuit claimed the children were engaged in behavior that was reckless, careless and negligent, and voluntarily placed themselves in danger by walking along the sidewalk.
But his legal team appears to have abandoned that rhetoric. Their Feb. 13 filing states: "The defense understands full well the damage that was done to this innocent family. The Cadigans are entitled to reasonable compensatory damages for their injuries. But we do not agree that Edward Nelson should be punished for this sad and tragic accident."
His attorneys did not respond to a request for comment before the Almanac's deadline.
The filing was submitted in response to the Cadigan family's renewed pursuit of punitive damages after a San Mateo County Superior Court judge dismissed their first request. In an amended complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that an accident Mr. Nelson was involved in on Nov. 8, 2012, should have indicated that it wasn't safe for him to drive. The filing claimed the DMV suspended his license as a result until he petitioned for a new one in August 2013.
However, police records indicate that the 2012 accident involved another driver hitting his car while backing out of a parking space. Investigators determined Mr. Nelson was not the party at fault, police told the Almanac, which calls into question whether the DMV would have had reason to suspend his license.
Mr. Nelson's defense team did not delve into the 2012 accident in their response to the amended complaint beyond asking whether the alleged facts are true. And if his license was suspended but then re-issued, his attorneys asked, does that not suggest the state determined he was fit to drive only months before the 2013 crash?
Mr. Nelson's license has since been surrendered, the District Attorney's Office said, although it's unclear whether that was voluntary or not.
He graduated from Stanford Law School and was licensed to practice law from 1957 to 2001, according to the California State Bar. A team of two attorneys from Pedersen Eichenbaum & Lauderdale of San Jose and one from Dyer & White in Menlo Park is representing him in the lawsuit.