New York Partners Alecia Walters-Hinds and Adam Schwartzstein obtained a defense verdict in a trucking litigation matter venued in the Bronx County Supreme Court in Bronx, New York.
The accident precipitating the suit occurred between our client’s tractor trailer and a co-defendant vehicle. The 26-year-old certified registered nurse plaintiff was a rear seat passenger in the co-defendant’s vehicle. The operator of the co-defendant’s vehicle lost control of his vehicle and ultimately crossed three lanes of travel into the tractor trailer’s lane of travel and the collision occurred.
New York’s Joint and Several Liability aw was applicable to this matter. The co-defendant had minimal policy limits. Under this law, if plaintiff was able to prove at trial 1% or more liability upon the operator of the client’s tractor trailer, then the client would be responsible for any jury verdict in excess of the co-defendant’s policy limits.
The plaintiff’s strategy throughout the course of this litigation was to establish 1% liability upon the client in the plaintiff-favorable Bronx County Supreme Court venue. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the tractor trailer was operated at an unsafe speed under the conditions that existed at the time of the accident and had sufficient time to take evasive maneuvers so as to avoid the impact with the co-defendant vehicle. The plaintiff testified at both her deposition and at trial that the co-defendant vehicle was stopped for a period of ten seconds on the road before impact. The plaintiff relied upon an accident reconstruction expert to support plaintiff’s trial testimony.
We argued that the tractor trailer driver was faced with an emergency and did not have an opportunity to avoid the accident and acted as a reasonably prudent would under the circumstances. We also argued that the client’s driver was faced with a sudden emergency which could not have been reasonably anticipated, and further argued that, under the emergency situation doctrine, the tractor trailer driver was not negligent. The client’s driver testified at trial that the co-defendant vehicle crossed in front of his lane and never stopped. Our request for the emergency situation charge was granted by the trial judge.
In support of our defense arguments, a liability reconstruction expert was called to testify. This expert was able to establish points of impact between the vehicles and performed time/distance/reaction analysis and came to the opinion that it was impossible for the co-defendant’s vehicle to have stopped for 10 seconds (as testified by plaintiff) and that the co-defendant’s vehicle final resting position on the road could only have occurred if the co-defendant vehicle had been moving at the moment of impact.
The injuries sustained in this matter included severe fractures to the right leg which required surgery and multiple tears and fractures in the right knee which required surgery. Plaintiff’s surgeon testified at trial and opined that the plaintiff made need to two future complete knee replacement surgeries.
Prior to trial the matter was mediated without a settlement. A high/low proposal was offered to the plaintiff and was rejected. During closing arguments, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award $1,750,000 in monetary damages. The settlement demand remained at $1,000,000 throughout trial.
After a two-week trial, the jury issued a unanimous defense verdict for the insured and found the co-defendant 100% at fault for the cause of the accident. We were able to prove that the insured was not even 1% at fault for the cause of this accident. The damages awarded to the plaintiff by the jury were issued against the co-defendant.
The favorable outcome in a plaintiff-friendly venue of Bronx County was obtained through vigorous preparation for trial and the retention of the proper experts. By carefully selecting the best experts, prepping them for trial, and working closely with them at trial with the proper demonstrative evidence, we were able to get a defense verdict in a case where plaintiff only needed to establish 1% liability against the client, with the potential for a seven-figure verdict. This strategy enabled us to provide the jury with evidence and testimony to support a finding of no liability.
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