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Motorcyclist wins record $10.8 million settlement against government for crash

A view of Interstate 15 with moderate traffic in San Diego on Nov. 19, 2021.
A view of Interstate 15 with moderate traffic in San Diego on Nov. 19, 2021.

A motorcyclist who lost a leg in a freeway crash caused by a Navy sailor in National City has reached a $10.8 million settlement with the federal government.

The settlement is believed to be the largest ever in a personal injury case involving a vehicle collision against the federal government in San Diego history.

The case stems from a Sept. 13, 2019, crash on Interstate 5, in which a sailor driving a Navy van struck another vehicle, causing a chain reaction of crashes into Peter Arthur's motorcycle. Arthur, a Navy veteran, was thrown from his motorcycle and sustained serious injuries, which required the amputation of his right leg above the knee. He also suffered an avulsion of his right biceps, complete laceration of his right radial nerve at the elbow and has "severe ongoing dysfunction" in his right arm, according to the complaint filed in San Diego federal court.


Arthur's attorneys say the driver of the Navy van alleged another vehicle swerved in front of the van, forcing him to veer to the left. However, in subsequent depositions, there was no evidence to show any "phantom vehicle" caused the crash, according to Robert Francavilla, one of Arthur's attorneys.

In a statement, Francavilla said, "Depositions were taken from everyone involved, including a critical deposition of a witness who initially claimed to have seen a `phantom' vehicle swerve in front of the Navy vehicle — however the testimony failed to demonstrate that this phantom vehicle caused the collision, or even existed."

Francavilla said he believed "justice was served" with the resolution of the case, which was reached earlier this month.

The attorney said Arthur, who he described as having a "never say die attitude" and the "most positive, upbeat personality" throughout the case, is progressing well medically.

Francavilla said Arthur's previous work involved repairing and maintaining medical equipment at local hospitals, but he has been unable to continue that work due to his injuries.