Vermont lawsuit involving a Peterbilt truck collision with an automobile settles just prior to trial with jury hearing case regarding damages
On August 9, 2000, a Peterbilt truck, owned and operated by the Defendants, struck the Plaintiff's vehicle while she was driving on Route 4 in New York. Plaintiff suffered a closed head injury, fractures of her right tibia and fibula, left femur and hip, 4th and 5th fingers of her left hand, left clavicle and ribs. She also sustained lacerations to her left hand and an avulsion of the tip of her right middle finger. The leg fractures required rodding and several surgeries. Plaintiff's recovery was complicated by infection in her lower leg fractures and a severe reaction to her antibiotics. The healing process required multiple hospitalizations and she was left with a permanent gait derangement.
Two mediation sessions before the judge, with an offer of $1.7 million, failed to resolve the case.
In pretrial motions, Defendants claimed that New York law of damages applied because the accident occurred in New York and all the Defendants were NY domiciliaries. The Defendants further contended that if NY law applied, Plaintiff would lose the benefit of the collateral source rule. Since her medical bills totaled $400,000, such a ruling would have a significant impact on her potential damage award. Unlike Vermont law, NY law does not permit an award of prejudgment interest on medical bills. Also problematic to the Plaintiff, NY law requires that the portion of a jury verdict awarded for future damages be structured as opposed to paid in a lump sum. The Plaintiff briefed and argued in favor of the application of Vermont law of damages. Only days before the trial, the judge ruled that Vermont law applied.
At his deposition, the Defendant truck driver claimed that he had a sneezing fit which caused him to lose control of his vehicle. Just prior to trial, the Defendants admitted liability and the case was presented to the jury solely on the issue of damages.
The Plaintiff offered testimony of Plaintiff's daughter, two rescue workers, three treating physicians and a visiting nurse. Plaintiff planned to offer testimony of other physicians, including her treating orthopedist, who was expected to testify that she would suffer from permanent gait impairment and would require a knee and hip replacement in the future.
Medical expenses $480,000, lost wages $122,000, future damages knee replacement ($45,000, completed after settlement), hip replacement ($30,000), physical therapy and medications.
Settlement: June 2003; $2,295,000.