Type of Action: Automobile Negligence, Trucking Negligence, Violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR’s)
Injuries Alleged: Multiple fractures of femur, hip and leg to female plaintiff, age 43 on date of collision. Injuries required multiple surgeries. Plaintiff is a resident of Wake County. At the time of her injury, she was gainfully employed in an office position at a medical doctor’s office, supporting herself, her two adult children, and one of her grandchildren.
Name of Case: [CONFIDENTIAL]
Court and County with Case #: [CONFIDENTIAL] Filed in a county in Eastern North Carolina
Settlement/Trial: Case settled at a second mediated settlement conference after numerous depositions, and an earlier mediation.
Name of Judge or Mediator: Robert A. Beason, Mediator
Special Damages: EMS, Surgeon Fees, and Hospital Charges; Net Lost Income to Date; Future Lost Income to Age 68 (not reduced to present value); and Future Medical/Surgical Expenses: unknown
Verdict or Settlement: Settlement
Amount: $2,600,000 ($100,000 from automobile driver’s insurers; $2.5 million from truck driver’s insurers)
Date of Verdict or Settlement: Dismissal filed August 4, 2008.
Most Helpful Experts (Name, Title, Location): Timothy Harris, orthopedic surgeon (hip/femur), Wake Orthopedics, Raleigh, NC; Sarah DeWitt, orthopedic surgery (foot/ankle), Orthopaedic Surgery of Foot & Ankle, P.A., Raleigh, NC; Reggie Hines, Trucking Safety Regulations and Industry Standards, Mt. Olive, NC; Ed Livesay, Accident Reconstructionist, Lemon Springs, NC; Janey Barnes, Ph.D., Human Factors Expert, Raleigh, NC; Markay Media and Cynthia Hill, video production, Durham, NC; and, The Visual Advantage, medical illustrations and courtroom exhibits, Knightdale, NC. Insurance Carriers: [CONFIDENTIAL]
Lead Lawyer for the Plaintiff : Philip A. Mullins, IV of Thomas, Ferguson & Mullins, LLP, Durham, NC, 919-682-5648, fax 919-688-7251
Description of Case, evidence presented, and arguments made: The North Carolina Highway Patrol investigated this serious collision. Without the work of Troopers W.P. Moore and C.C. Cayco, much of the evidence would have been destroyed such that the trucking company and their truck driver would have avoided liability. Plaintiff’s experts used the information provided by the Highway Patrol to establish that both drivers, the trucker and the automobile driver, were liable for all damages sustained by the badly injured plaintiff. Through depositions of the truck driver and trucking company’s safety director, more damning evidence was obtained. The plaintiff was a rear seat passenger in an automobile that was driven into the rear of a stopped tractor trailer. The collision occurred on US Hwy 64 during daylight in a county east of Wake County. However, it was raining badly and the auto driver’s visibility was poor. The stopped tractor trailer was approximately five to seven feet to the right of the solid white line on the paved shoulder of the highway under an overpass.
The liability insurers for the passenger vehicle accepted liability and paid their policy limits ($100,000 per claimant). The trucker, his employer the trucking company and their liability insurers refused to accept any responsibility for the collision and refused to even discuss with plaintiff’s counsel any settlement prior to initiation of a lawsuit. The trucking defendants denied all liability in their pleadings and in their depositions. This was despite the fact that the Highway Patrol documented over 10 violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including the trucker’s failure to turn on his four-way flashers (“emergency flashers”) and his failure to place out the three warning triangles behind his stopped truck. The automobile driver indicated that she saw the truck, but thought it was moving in a normal fashion on the highway and simply tracked in behind it only to realize a second before impact that it was actually stopped. At the first mediation, even after showing all the evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claims against them, the trucking defendants did not want to pay nearly what the damages required. Also, in that initial mediation, the trucking defendants continued to claim there was no proximate cause in that the truck was stopped for over 30 minutes and parked so far off the road.
After that first mediation, plaintiff’s counsel conducted two focus groups to assess issues raised by the trucking defendants throughout the case. At the second mediation, plaintiff’s counsel shared the results of the two focus groups including exit interviews with jurors, their verdict sheets, and their responses to jury questionnaire questions to establish reliability of the focus groups’ verdicts and jurors’ comments. The plaintiff is an incredibly bright, kind, hard-working woman who would have presented well in any county in the State. Her injuries were significant. The Visual Advantage did a fine job illustrating her injuries and medical procedures in exhibits which we were prepared to take before a jury.
Amount Actually Recovered for Client: 100% recovery, ie., $2,600,000 (Two Million Six Hundred Thousand Dollars).