Verdicts & Settlements

Woman killed in an accident involving a tractor trailer

$850,000

The male plaintiff tractor-trailer driver in his mid-40s contended that as he was traveling in the same direction as the defendant’s tractor-trailer on a roadway containing two lanes in each direction, the defendant driver suddenly cut him off, causing him to lose control and jackknife. There was no contact between the tractor-trailers. The plaintiff maintained that the defendant did not stop after the accident. The plaintiff contended that he suffered lumbar and cervical herniations, left-sided impingement syndrome, an ulnar nerve injury and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome requiring a total of seven surgical interventions. The plaintiff maintained that the injuries will permanently preclude him from returning to work. The defendant denied that its driver was involved in the incident. The defendant also contended that in view of the fact that the plaintiff had made a number of prior claims because of earlier accidents and had a prior felony conviction, his contentions should not be accepted.

The defendant’s driver who was allegedly involved in the accident could not be located by the defendant trucking company. The defendant maintained that its log books reflected that it did not have a vehicle traveling in the location claimed by the plaintiff at the time in question. The plaintiff would have presented an independent eyewitness who would have testified that he clearly observed the defendant’s logo on the back of the other truck. The plaintiff would have also contended that although the defendant’s log books did not indicated that it had a truck in the immediate vicinity on the day in question, the distance between the site of the accident and the area that it had a truck at that time was not particularly great. The plaintiff argued that the defense argument should not overcome the clear testimony from the plaintiff’s independent eyewitness.

The plaintiff suffered herniations at L4,5, L5,S1, C4,5 and C5,6. The evidence reflected that he underwent lumbar discectomies and a double cervical fusion. The plaintiff also required arthroscopic surgery to treat the impingement syndrome in the left, non-dominant shoulder and bilateral carpal tunnel releases. The plaintiff also underwent right-sided nerve transposition surgery because of the ulnar nerve injury. The plaintiff maintained that he will suffer permanent, extensive pain and will no longer be able to drive a tractor-trailer. The plaintiff contended that his talents and inclinations gear him towards physical labor and that as a practical matter, he will have great difficulties obtaining alternative employment in the future.

The defendant would have maintained that the plaintiff’s claims that the subject injuries left him permanently unemployable as a trucker should be significantly questioned. The defendant established that because of a number of prior accidents, including work-related accidents, the plaintiff had made claims and missed some time from work. The plaintiff countered that the prior incidents resulted in relatively short periods in which he could not work, and that he had been back to full time work without restrictions for sometime before the subject accident occurred.

The defendant also would have confronted the plaintiff with evidence of a prior felony conviction and would have argued that in view of this factor, the plaintiff’s believability was highly suspect.

The case settled for $850,000.

REFERENCE:
Plaintiff’s spine surgeon: Carl P. Giordino from Morristown, New Jersey; Plaintiff’s orthopedist: James Dwyer from Bridgewater, New Jersey; Plaintiff’s vocational rehab expert: Richard Schuster, Ph.D. from New York, New York and Plaintiff’s economist: Frank Tinari from Livingston, New Jersey.
J.L. vs. Liberty Supply Company. Docket No.: SOM-L-162-02; Case settled after a mediation before Retired Judge Robert Feldman.
Attorney for plaintiff: Charles A. Cerussi of Law Offices of Charles A. Cerussi, P.C. in Red Bank, New Jersey and Manhattan.

COMMENTARY:
The defendant would have introduced evidence, on the issue of credibility, of a prior felony conviction and multiple prior accident claims. The plaintiff would have argued that the major issued on both liability and damages were not dependent upon an acceptance of the plaintiff’s credibility and that the evidence of the prior conviction was of very limited relevance in this case. In this regard, the plaintiff would have argued that there was no evidence to undermine the credibility of the independent eyewitness, who would have testified as to clearly observing the defendant’s logo on the offending truck, and the plaintiff would have argued that this evidence was dispositive on the disputed issue of whether the defendant’s tractor-trailer was involved in this accident in which there was no contact between the vehicles and in which the driver of the other tractor-trailer did not stop after the plaintiff was cut off. Additionally, the plaintiff would have argued that the multiple injuries and need for some seven surgical interventions spoke for themselves and that the probative value involved in assessing the plaintiff’s credibility was very limited.