Christopher Chan - Brain Injury Victim
On May 31st, 2005, one week before his middle school graduation, Christopher Chan was riding his bike home from Pioneer Middle School. He had left school, gone to get his bicycle, and put on his helmet, as he did habitually. Christopher was raised on Air Force bases, and not wearing a helmet when riding a bike on base meant the MP’s would take you home, lock, stock, and bike. He was riding on the right hand side of the road, and stopped at a stop sign at the Pepper and 11th Avenue Intersection. Christopher lived just across the street in the Stonecrest subdivision. When there was a break in traffic, Christopher moved forward but was struck by a van moving 35-45mph through the intersection. Christopher's head had left a depression in the windshield and he was thrown by some witness accounts 50 feet into the air and landed in the north side of the intersection.
Christopher suffered a serious, closed head brain injury as well as an open tibial/fibular fracture of his left leg. He was air lifted to University Medical Center in Fresno, where he was required to spend 2 and a half months in the hospital and then 2 more months in a rehabilitation unit. Before the accident, Christopher was an intelligent and inquisitive honor roll student. After the accident, he had the verbal and visual reasoning level of a 6 year old, and was only able to take care of his personal needs with assistance and structure. He currently has severe neurological and cognitive deficits as a result of the closed head injury he sustained, and these injuries are permanent. He also continues to suffer intermittent seizures.
Christopher's parents were referred to Bisnar Chase, and said "they [were] outstanding." Bisnar Chase claimed that the City of Hanford was responsible for Christopher's injuries due to a combination of actions and decisions over the course of time. Some of these included failing to make the intersection a 4-way stop and to provide crosswalks for pedestrians and bicyclists. The intersection in question was considered a 'trap' because drivers approaching the intersection could not see pedestrians or bicyclists crossing the street there, and there were no warnings or signs to warn of the danger.
Bisnar Chase also alleged that the City had knowledge of the dangerous condition but did nothing about it. The city council met and discussed adding a crosswalk at the intersection in question, but determined that it did not meet the criteria for adding a crosswalk, instead choosing to route children walking to school an extra mile or more out of the way in order to go through a safer intersection. The city council staff voted to have the staff assist the school district in obtaining funds for the traffic signal, but no actions were taken to accomplish this in the year between the vote and Christopher's accident.
Due to Christopher's condition requiring him to be taken care of for life, Bisnar Chase determined that future medical costs would be in the millions for the Chan family, as would loss of earnings. The City settled with Bisnar Chase a week before trial for a total of $16,444,904 including annuities for Christopher. In an interview with Bisnar Chase, Christopher's mother, Maria, I'm so, so happy that we found Bisnar Chase... they always [communicate] what's going on [with our] case." Jupiter Chan, Christopher's father, said he thinks of John Bisnar as "a guardian angel... like my older brother. [John Bisnar] told me to just stop working... they told me to take care of my son."