$1,941,000 Jury Verdict for Woman Injured in Collision Involving an Illegal U-Turn
COURT AND COUNTY
Supreme Court, Kings County
AGE AND OCCUPATION OF PLAINTIFF
At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was a 29-year-old homemaker and mother of two.
DESCRIPTION OF CASE
On Dec. 29, 2002, Plaintiff was traveling in her sport utility vehicle (SUV) running various errands in the Parkville section of Brooklyn. Plaintiff was headed eastbound along Avenue I, when she came upon the intersection of East Third Street. Defendant was operating his car in the westbound lane of Avenue I, also near East Third Street, when he decided to make an illegal U-turn to go eastbound. Defendant entered the same eastbound lane on Avenue I in which Plaintiff had been traveling for some minutes.
As Plaintiff entered the intersection, Defendant was still in the process of completing the U-turn and she struck his car with her SUV from behind. The collision resulted in damage to the rear quarter panel of the passenger side. At the scene of the accident Plaintiff complained of back and neck injuries.
Plaintiff sued the Defendant driver of the car, in addition to the lessor of the Defendant driver’s vehicle (i.e., the vehicle’s owner). Plaintiff alleged that Defendant was negligent in the operation of his car when making the illegal U-turn and that the leasing company, in the pre-Graves Amendment period, was vicariously liable as a result of the conditions of the contract between lessee and lessor.
Plaintiff’s negligence claim is rooted in her testimony that Defendant driver made a sudden, unexpected, and wholly reckless U-turn across the double yellow line that distinguishes the east and westbound lanes of Avenue I. Plaintiff claims that Defendant’s negligence is further exhibited by his failure to use the appropriate directional signals, to observe Plaintiff’s oncoming vehicle from the opposite lane, and to not reasonably anticipate the time/distance it would take for him to safely complete the U-turn. This is all irrespective of the fact that negligence could be presumed simply by the Defendant driver’s crossing of the yellow line.
Counsel for defense argued a theory of contributory negligence, contending that Plaintiff was had the opportunity to observe Defendant and should have taken numerous measures to avoid the collision. This was a weak argument as it had already been shown that Defendant had acted rashly and without vigilance in making the illegal U-turn, making it unreasonable to expect Plaintiff to act any differently with respect to her actions just prior to collision.
Plaintiff suffered herniated discs of the cervical region of the spine at C5-6 and C6-7. In addition, she sustained herniated discs of the lumbar region at L4-5 and L5-S1. Plaintiff contends that the herniated discs caused lumbar and cervical radiculopathy.
Defense argued that Plaintiff’s injuries stemmed from a degenerative condition that persisted prior to the occurrence of the accident. The defense’s strongest argument regarding the proximate cause of Plaintiff’s injuries was that she refused treatment on scene when it was offered by a police officer. She did, however, follow up later that evening on her pain by driving to an emergency room where she complained of back pain, specifically denying neck pain. Twelve days later the Plaintiff followed up with a physician and complained of neck and back pain. She ultimately underwent both neck and back surgery, from which she made an excellent recovery.
Before the accident, Plaintiff was an avid exerciser and rollerblading enthusiast. Plaintiff testified that in addition to not being able to exercise or live an active lifestyle, she felt that she could no longer be an active mother to her two children.
After trial, the jury returned a favorable Plaintiff’s verdict, awarding her a sum of $1,941,000.
This case was tried by Daniel P. O’Toole, Esq. and Stephen J. Murphy, Esq.