$32,756,156 Record-Breaking Verdict for Vietnam Veteran Hit by Impaired Driver

Our client, a 60-year-old army veteran, was driving home with his wife when they witnessed a car crash. Police were called, and while they waited, our client went over to the two cars to make sure the drivers involved were alright. As he waited with the injured drivers, the Defendant, who was high on painkillers, marijuana and cocaine, drove right past the police barricade and struck our client, sending him 25-30 feet in the air. He suffered massive brain damage, skull fractures, collapsed lungs and lapsed into a coma. Though he was able to regain consciousness, his cognitive, verbal and physical abilities were severely hindered, and life has not been the same for him since. The result was a record-breaking $32.7 million dollar verdict, the largest reported non-medical malpractice verdict in Long Island history.

Court and County

Supreme, Suffolk

Plaintiff Description

60-year-old Vietnam Veteran and retired Long Island railroad conductor; married with two children

Description of Case

On the day of the accident, our client and his wife had gone to visit a family friend. On their way back, our client's wife planned to drop him off at the American Legion, a Veterans organization, where he was proud to serve as an acting commander.

While waiting at a red light, the two observed an unrelated two-car collision. They called 911 and while they waited for police to arrive, our client went to the cars to make sure the drivers involved were okay. The police arrived, and our client's wife filled out a police report and left; our client remained on the scene with the intention of following her home later, in order to assist however he could and tell police what he had witnessed.

Our client was still at the scene when the Defendant, who was high on painkillers, marijuana and cocaine, ran a red light, swerved into oncoming traffic, and drove wildly and recklessly through the blockade which police and firefighters had set up, striking our client so hard that he was reportedly thrown 30 feet into the air. He crashed to the ground and repeatedly slammed his head on the concrete as he skidded to a rest.

In her impaired daze, the Defendant attempted to flee the scene. Police and firefighters furiously pursued her and were able to stop her car by jumping in the driver side window and shifting the car into park. The Defendant's two young children, ages nine and two, were strapped in the back seat through all of this.

The Defendant had the temerity to get out of the car and actually blame our client for the accident as he lay there unconscious and unresponsive, blood pooling out of his head as he fought for his life. The Defendant admitted on the scene that she had taken Xanax and Vicodin before driving and was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, reckless assault and reckless endangerment.

Injuries

Our client was rushed to John T. Mather Hospital, but they did not have the capacity to treat his massive injuries. They stabilized his condition as best as they could and transported him to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Our client fell into a coma. He was diagnosed with severe brain damage and sustained skull fractures as well as several facial fractures. He underwent an emergency craniotomy to relieve the pressure being caused by the blood which was pooling in his brain.

In addition to the massive brain damage he suffered, our client also suffered collapsed lungs and a left hip fracture which required open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) surgery. He also underwent surgical placement of a tracheostomy tube, surgical placement of a Greenfield IVC filter and surgical placement of a gastronomy tube. He was using a feeding tube the entire time he was there.

Upon coming out of his coma, our client began to undergo a rigorous and exhausting rehabilitation program. He had to relearn how to speak. He was given cognitive exercises which included questions like "what is 2 + 2" and had to be retaught the names of his family members. He worked exhaustively to be able to move around in a wheelchair and is now able to feed himself with aid from another person.

Prior to his accident, our client was a dedicated family man who kept a wide social circle. One of his favorite pastimes was reciting poetry at parties for family and friends. As a result of the massive injuries he suffered in this tragic and senseless accident, he is now limited to very minimal conversation, mostly one-word responses. Moving his head to the side is applauded, raising his leg when asked is a goal to be worked towards-counting to ten is considered an enormous achievement.

The contrast in our client's life before and after his accident is heart-breaking. He will never be able to walk on his own again. His speech is garbled and difficult to understand. He will never be able to return home, and will be completely dependent on the assistance of others for the rest of his life. No amount of money could rectify the intense physical and emotional pain our client and his family have suffered as a result of this accident.

The record-breaking $32,756,156 that our client was awarded in the verdict of this trial was well above the insurance available. This case had an intense emotional impact on all those who worked here and has never been forgotten as a testament to the importance of the work we perform for all the clients whom we are asked to serve.

Verdict Amount

Our client was awarded a record-breaking $32,756,156 for the tragic and catastrophic injuries he suffered. This case was covered extensively by the media, including the New York Daily News, and is the largest reported non-medical malpractice verdict in Long Island history.

Handling Attorneys

This matter was handled by attorneys Stephen J. Murphy and Daniel P. O'Toole.