$7.5 million settlement
Paralysis from spinal cord injury sustained when a semi-truck hit animals in the road and swerved to the right, hitting the plaintiff's car.
After driving past multiple cattle in the road, a Good Samaritan had pulled off to the side to call 911 and report the hazard. About 30 seconds into the call, a semi-truck struck some of the cattle and veered to the right, hitting the driver of the passenger car who was still on the phone with 911. The driver of the passenger car sustained a lower cervical fracture resulting in paralysis.
The driver of the semi-truck claimed he could not see the cattle since it was late at night and dark, raining, and the cattle were black. He claimed that from his standpoint, this was an unpreventable accident. The truck driver further claimed the rancher who owned the cattle was at fault because the cattle escaped from his property.
The plaintiff claimed that the semi-truck driver was going too fast for road conditions at the time of the accident. The driver's ECM showed he was traveling at 1 mile over the speed limit at the time of the impact. The plaintiff also obtained the electronic GPS data, which revealed the driver of the truck had falsified his log books. Additionally, the Driver's Manual for the trucking company instructed the driver to slow down in such conditions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association's (FMCSA) regulations also require a reduction in speed during such conditions.
$1.7 million verdict
Lower back injury with 2 level fusion due to car accident.
The plaintiff, a young woman, was stopped in congested traffic on an interstate highway in Kansas City, Missouri. A semi-truck did not notice the slowing traffic, and the stopped vehicles ahead of him. The semi-truck rear-ended the plaintiff's vehicle at approximately 65 miles per hour causing the plaintiff to suffer a broken back at L1. This required a fusion and the plaintiff will have to endure pain the rest of her life.
The plaintiff was able to return to some forms of work, but not that for which she was working at the time of the injury. The spinal surgeon stated that the plaintiff would not have any problems with walking, standing or sitting as long as she was given reasonable rest breaks. He testified she would need over the counter type pain medications periodically during her life. The surgeon further testified that future surgery would not be needed with only about a 3% chance of later surgery. Friends and family testified that the plaintiff's lifestyle and life in general had been dramatically changed.
The insurance company only offered $175,000 during the entire course of pre-trial litigation, and even denied responsibility until the day of the trial.
The trial lasted for five days. The jury returned a verdict for over $1.766 million dollars.
(* Photo Source: Missouri Lawyers Weekly)
Woman injured in crash with a truck wins at trial. Train trestle and construction site obstructed the view.
A lawsuit stemming from a Greene County traffic accident in which a woman was injured has resulted in a $105,000 verdict for the injured driver.
The accident occurred when a truck driver for O&S Trucking turned left and collided with a car driven by the plaintiff. The accident occurred at an intersection just outside Springfield that included a train trestle and road construction, which could have blocked the vision of one of the drivers involved. The truck driver indicated that he could only see about 200 yards, while the plaintiff said the site had about 400 yards of visibility.
An eyewitness provided an early recorded statement that the plaintiff was speeding, traveling 55 mph in a 45 mph speed zone. On examination at trial the witness stated in retrospect that the plaintiff may not have been speeding.
The truck driver stated from the time that he started his turn, the plaintiff had more than six seconds, maybe as many as eight seconds, to see him and come to a stop. He also testified that the plaintiff must have been speeding because he could not see her within 200 yards of the intersection when he began his turn. The plaintiff contended she was not speeding, and that she only had 2 to 3 seconds from when the truck began its turn until impact.
Both sides produced video footage of a truck turning at the intersection. How much time the plaintiff had to react depended on when the truck is thought to have begun its turn. The defendant contended it was when the truck started into the intersection to makes its turn; the plaintiff contended it was not until the truck actually broke to its left, which would indicate a clear intent to turn and obstruct the lanes.
The case was complicated by the medical records. The plaintiff went to the emergency room the day of the wreck complaining of back and neck pain. Her 'left' hip was X-rayed.
Two weeks later the plaintiff returned to the ER with a complaint of left hip pain and left jaw pain. Another X-ray was performed on the left hip, also documented by the film that was presented to the jury. The plaintiff followed up with her primary care doctor, who documented hip problems and later referred to the left hip on several occasions.
The plaintiff was referred to physical therapy where the record stated she had 'right' hip pain and popping but noted left hip throughout most of the typed assessment notes. The plaintiff contended the medical records were wrong and that it was her right hip that was injured. She further testified that the doctors must have X-rayed the wrong hip in the emergency room.
The plaintiff received one course of physical therapy. The plaintiff's expert noted that the actual physical therapy notes revealed therapy on the right hip, not the left. The defendant's expert, orthopedic surgeon Paul Olive testified that the therapy was primarily for back pain and it was standard to work on the right hip to help relieve back pain.
After the plaintiff completed the therapy the record noted that the plaintiff was pain free. The plaintiff agreed, but testified that her right hip continued to pop. She did not receive any more treatment for nine months. She then started aerobics and noted an increase in popping in her right hip. Two weeks later, she was in a car wreck where she further injured her right hip. She made a claim for this in July, and received a settlement. The jury was informed that there was a claim of right leg injury and a settlement. The primary care doctor's note stated that plaintiff had recovered from the earlier wreck but then went on to state that the 'left' hip popping was historic.
Two months later the plaintiff was diagnosed with a right hip labral tear, and eventually this was confirmed on MRI. She underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear. One year after surgery she was pain free. She did receive a later course of therapy for some 'intermittent mild pain'.
At trial the plaintiff said she could go weeks at a time without any pain at all and that the popping had completely resolved. She also testified she changed jobs to a more sedentary job and she avoided prolonged standing, walking or sitting. She stated those changes seemed to help prevent the pain.
The plaintiff was working at a Subway restaurant when the wreck occurred and moved to a secretarial job after the incident. She also testified that when she did have pain it was not more than a 3 on a scale of 10. The plaintiff's expert testified that she was probably going to have some degree of arthritis in the hip as she aged, and it would worsen over time. The defendant's expert stated future arthritis was only a possibility.
On the first day of trial the defendant offered $27,500, but the plaintiff rejected the offer and stood firm on the $49,000. At close, the defense suggested the jury return with a verdict for the defense or, at the most, a verdict for the plaintiff in the range of $3,000 to $8,000. The plaintiff suggested a range from $150,000 to $200,000.
The jury was out for just more than 90 minutes before coming back in with a verdict. - Tom Herrmann, Lawyer's Weekly
$1.3 million settlement
Passenger plaintiff settles a collision case with a delivery company, claiming a drunk delivery driver caused the accident.
A passenger who was injured when a delivery truck overturned onto her vehicle has reached a $1.3 million settlement in her case against the confidential delivery company and its driver.
Discovery revealed that the delivery truck driver was a recovering alcoholic who had 'fallen off the wagon' the night before he presented to work. But before discovery was completed, the injured driver of the car settled her lawsuit against the same defendants for $250,000.
"This case demonstrates the importance of hiring a lawyer with litigation experience and who is willing to litigate," said Brad Bradshaw, the plaintiff's Springfield-based attorney.
An undisclosed driver and passenger were driving on the outskirts of a town in southwest Missouri. As the street took an 'S' turn, a driver for a local delivery company entered the curve from the opposite direction. The delivery driver lost control of his truck and crossed the center line, then overturned onto the oncoming car.
The car driver was trapped in the vehicle and had to be extracted by a rescue crew. The passenger was able to open her door and roll out. Both were transported to an area hospital and admitted for observation and treatment. The delivery driver left the scene and walked back to the delivery company several blocks away.
The driver of the car, 27, spent an extended period of time in the hospital. She required rehabilitation and surgery to repair injuries, accumulating a significant amount of special damages. The passenger, 27, suffered a dislocated left hip. After hospitalization, she had continuing pain and limitation in her hip. She later required surgery.
In the passenger plaintiff's lawsuit, an investigation revealed that the delivery driver left the scene and returned to work possibly because he was intoxicated. Discussions with the investigating officers uncovered that shortly after he returned to the delivery company, police took the driver for a blood alcohol test revealing a 0.159 percent blood alcohol content.
Depositions later revealed that the delivery driver, 35, admitted to drinking heavily into the early morning and being 'wasted' the night before the collision, and that he did not get much sleep before reporting to work a few hours later.
Further investigation revealed that an undercover officer saw the delivery driver just minutes before the collision. The officer testified that she saw the driver enter an intersection and while making a right turn, the truck's tires on the passenger side lifted a few inches off the ground. The officer could not tell if the tipping was from speed or inappropriate weight distribution of his load. Because the officer was in an unmarked car without lights or sirens, she did not attempt a traffic stop.
When the delivery driver reported to work that morning, he obtained keys and the truck was checked out to him. The plaintiff claimed the driver was so intoxicated that the company should have noticed his intoxication, withheld the keys and forbidden him from driving the truck.
During mediation, the parties settled for $1.3 million.
Stephen H. Snead of Springfield, co-counsel for the delivery company, declined to comment on behalf of the defendants.
- Anne C. Vitale for Lawyer's Weekly
$2.4 million verdict
A farmer's tractor was rear-ended by a bus.
The plaintiff sued Ryder Student Transportation Services after his farm tractor was hit from behind by a bus causing him serious injuries.
The plaintiff's tractor was on Highway 13 in Polk County when the charter bus rear-ended him. The bus was traveling at 55 to 60 mph. The plaintiff was thrown from the tractor and slid down the highway, suffering multiple facial and scalp lacerations, road burns, a dislocated shoulder and injuries to his cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine that resulted in a worsening of pre-existing and degenerative changes in his spine.
The plaintiff claimed that his change in appearance after the accident affected his personality and confidence, and that his injuries resulted in limitations that affected his ability to perform his farming operation.
Ryder claimed that any lost earnings arose from restrictions on his activity caused by a lower back condition that predated the accident.
The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him $2.4 million, which is believed to be a record verdict in Polk County. $400,000 in prejudgment interest was added to the final judgment.
$2 million settlement, policy limits
Death following semi-truck accident on the highway.
The scattered family of an unemployed chef who died in a traffic accident near Joplin last year reached a $2 million settlement with a semi-truck driver and the trucking company Colonial Freight.
Before the settlement, the plaintiffs and the defense had locked horns over the release of driving logs and GPS tracking records. They also disputed whether the semi driver who struck the plaintiff's car had cocaine in his system and resolved a question over the defendants' insurance policy limits.
The question of insurance coverage nearly derailed a settlement, according to the plaintiffs' attorney Brad Bradshaw. The defendants initially said policy limits were $1 million, but later amended that to $2 million, saying there had been an error, after Bradshaw said the $1 million wasn't enough and that the plaintiffs wanted to go to trial instead.
Bradshaw said he still wanted to try the case, but the plaintiffs opted to settle for the policy limits after consulting with their personal attorneys.
Initially there was a question about the policy limits but “That was resolved,” said defense attorney Gary Wiseman.
The lawsuit stemmed from a February 2006 accident. The plaintiff, 46, a professional chef who had been unemployed for about a year, had driven from his home in Portland, Oregon to California before traveling to visit a friend in southern Missouri.
The plaintiff was pulled over on the right shoulder of eastbound Interstate 44 east of Joplin, apparently to consult a map, when a Colonial Freight semi-truck struck his Porsche 928 and catapulted it through the air. The plaintiff either died immediately or within a few moments of the impact.
The semi-truck driver said a car had cut in front of him, forcing him to swerve to the shoulder. There were no other witnesses to the accident.
"The driver tested positive for cocaine in his urine after the wreck," Bradshaw said. The defense argued that the cocaine had been taken more than 48 hours before the accident and had cleared his blood system, but the plaintiffs' experts had evidence that fatigue was actually worse just after cocaine wears off.
"The driver did not face charges over the accident," Wiseman said. "It was really disputed whether that would affect his driving or not."
After a motion to compel, the plaintiffs' attorneys obtained the driver's logs, which showed that he was within his proper hours of service. Following another motion to compel, a court order and a motion for sanctions, the plaintiffs' attorneys got the defendant's GPS tracking records, which showed the driver to be two hours over his hours of service. "That, with the positive cocaine test, helped lead to the settlement," Bradshaw said.
"The highway patrol issued no citations on the overage," Wiseman said. "The two hours would be something for a jury to consider, but probably in the end didn't make that much of a difference," he said. "It was a death case involving heavy impact on the highway. That made it worth settling."
Splitting the proceeds of the settlement were the plaintiff's wife of six years, who lives in Portland, Oregon; his teenage son, who lived with his mother and the plaintiff's ex-wife in California, and the plaintiff's mother, who lives in Massachusetts. The plaintiff's widow and son each were to receive 45 percent of the settlement, with the plaintiff's mother receiving the rest.
A man with persistent back pain from a collision settles for $550,000.
A man injured in an automobile accident settled his suit for $550,000.
The plaintiff was on his way to work when a semitrailer pulled out of a private driveway and clipped the tail end of his SUV, causing it to roll over once.
According to Brad Bradshaw, the plaintiff's Springfield attorney, the plaintiff did not complain of pain immediately after the wreck but noticed hip pain later that day and was driven to the emergency room.
At the emergency room, the plaintiff was diagnosed with a right hip contusion. Over the next several weeks he developed back pain.
"Whenever I hear of a patient having a back or neck strain, but they also have some radiating pain or numbness, I always wonder what an MRI will show," Bradshaw said.
An MRI revealed a mild disk protrusion, and the plaintiff was treated with physical therapy and epidural injections.
With the pain not resolving more than a year later, the plaintiff was referred for a second surgical opinion. According to Bradshaw, the neurosurgeon recommended a "two-level fusion for both the disk protrusion and also because of underlying spondylolisthesis," a condition in which one vertebra slides forward over another.
After surgery the plaintiff returned to regular duties, including occasional heavy lifting, but he testified he often got help for objects weighing more than 50 pounds. The plaintiff's neurosurgeon testified that he would have permanent limitations because of his pain.
The plaintiff claimed he would have had to leave his job and find one with less pay if his back pain continued. His neurosurgeon agreed that it was up to him whether he could tolerate the pain or needed to move to a new job but did say if the plaintiff worked with continued pain, it would increase the likelihood of future surgery.
"This case is a good example of why people typically should not settle cases for less than the policy limits, and it also exemplifies that what appears to be a soft tissue injury may actually be more severe," Bradshaw said.
Approximately three weeks before trial, the case settled at mediation for $550,000. The defendant's lawyer verified the facts of this report but declined to comment.
-Kyle Lewis, page 21 M.O.L.W. 1113, December 24, 2007, Missouri Lawyers Weekly
A car accident plaintiff with a herniated disc requiring fusion wins his case.
A Greene County jury awarded $500,000 to a man after he was injured in a car accident. On January 27, 2006, Jesse Jones was a passenger in a car Philip Tabor was driving. They were traveling south on Highway 65 when a semitrailer moved from the left lane into the right and hit the back of the car, which spun around and hit the median and the guardrail.
Tabor injured his shoulder in the accident, and Tabor’s wife, Holly, another passenger, also injured her shoulder. An annular disc in Jones’ back was torn in the accident. He was in pain and the injury required that he have a lumbar fusion with hardware installed.
The Tabors and Jones filed suit against the trucking company, Powell Trucking & Live Haul. "The Tabors settled before trial for $95,000," said Brad Bradshaw, the plaintiff's attorney.
At trial before Judge Michael Cordonnier, the attorneys did not focus on the facts of the accident. "We simply didn't admit liability, but there was no dispute about what happened,” said defense attorney Brian Malkmus, of The Malkmus Law Firm. “The accident caused the plaintiff’s injury, and we agreed that the surgery he underwent was necessary. He did not have any preexisting conditions.”
Before the accident, Jones had attended Central Bible College with the intention of becoming a youth pastor. With his injuries, he said, it wasn’t possible for him to pursue that career. “He testified [that] at times as a youth pastor he would have to set up stages and go on camping trips and perform other activities that would put strain on his back and exceed his weightlifting maximum,” Bradshaw said.
The plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Cary Marquis, testified that Jones would experience varying degrees of pain in his life and should limit himself to lifting only 50 pounds. There was only a small chance that Jones would need another surgery.
Given the testimony, Malkmus argued that Jones wasn’t limited in his activities. “I did not believe that he simply couldn’t do things in the future.”
After deliberating for two hours, the jury returned with a $500,000 verdict.
(Source–Missouri Lawyers Weekly, Angela Riley)