$700,000 RECOVERY – AUTO/TRUCK COLLISION – FAILURE OF TRUCKER TO STOP AT RED LIGHT – DEATH OF 76-YEAR-OLD AUTO OPERATOR – ALLEGED RECKLESS CONDUCT OF TRUCKING COMPANY IN PERMITTING DRIVER TO CONTINUE IN ITS EMPLOY DESPITE HISTORY OF 6-7 ACCIDENTS AND FOUR TRAFFIC TICKETS IN 19 YEAR PERIOD.
In this action, the plaintiff contended that the defendant truck driver failed to stop at a red light, striking the 76-year-old decedent’s car causing severe internal injuries and fractures which took his life some 20 hours post-accident. The plaintiff also contended that the truck driver had a history of a significant number of accidents and traffic tickets over the preceding 19 year period and that the defendant trucking company acted in a reckless manner in permitting him to continue driving, demanding punitive damages.
The plaintiff contended that as the decedent was traveling through the intersection with a green light, the defendant suddenly proceeded through the intersection against the red light at about 50 mph. The defendant truck driver, who did not dispute that the light was red, contended that glare from the morning sun prevented him from seeing the color of the light.
The plaintiff presented evidence that the defendant driver’s abstract reflected that he was involved in 6-7 accidents and had also received approximately four traffic tickets between 1981 and the time of the 2000 subject accident. The plaintiff contended that the trucking company either knew or should have known of his driving record and that the failure to remove him from the road constituted a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
The defendant trucking company would have argued that it was questionable if all of the prior accidents were the fault of the defendant driver. The defendant trucking company would have further argued that in view of the fact that the driver traveled between 50,000 and 100,000 miles each year, such a number of accidents clearly did not evidence the reckless conduct claimed by the plaintiff. The plaintiff would have countered that this many accidents and tickets evidenced a pattern and practice of unsafe driving and that the jury should be permitted to consider punitive damages.
The plaintiff maintained that the decedents suffered multiple fractures and massive internal injuries. The plaintiff indicated that the decedent could not be extracted from the car for approximately 45 minutes. The plaintiff contended that during this period, the decedent was in and out of consciousness, was moaning and appeared to be in great pain. The decedent was rushed to the hospital after he was extricated and emergency surgery was immediately performed. The plaintiff would have presented the two daughters and the son-in-laws who would have testified that the decedent appeared intermittently conscious and in pain between the time of the surgery and his death. The defendant would have countered that the ICU records did not reflect such conscious pain and suffering. The plaintiff contended, however, that these records were relatively unclear and the plaintiff’s expert would have testified that the records were consistent with the description of the family members. The plaintiff also contended that the irrespective of the issue of conscious pain and suffering, the jury should consider that they would also be free to render an award for hedonic damages during the final hours of the decedent’s life.
The decedent was not working at the time. The decedent left a wife and two adult daughters. The plaintiff contended that the pecuniary value of the loss of intangibles under Green vs. Bitner ranged from $200,000 – $400,000. the case settled prior to trial for $700,000.
Plt: Onedios. Docket no. L-2375-00; 3-3-01
Attorney for plaintiff: Robert Fuggi of Fuggi & Fuggi in Toms River.