This case arises from a traffic collision that occurred on June 6, 2009. On that day, the plaintiff was a middle seat passenger in a 1995 Ford Ranger truck that was traveling in the number one southbound lane of 43rd Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona, past the Bell Road intersection,when a Discount Enterprises, Inc./Total Transit, Inc. (“Discount Cab”) van, operated by Discount Cab’s agent/employee, failed to yield the right of way and exited from a private drive and collided with the truck. Discount Cab admitted it was legally responsible for the cab driver’s negligence.
Discount Cab claimed that the driver of the truck was travelling 63 miles per hour, in a 40 mph zone, prior to the collision. The truck driver denied that he was speeding.
Discount Cab claimed that the plaintiff enhanced or caused her damages by failing to use an available and operational seat belt. The plaintiff denied that there was a seatbelt available for her use. The plaintiff also claimed that even if there was a seat belt for her use, as it would only have been a lap belt, she would have sustained similar, if not more severe, injuries.
In the collision, the plaintiff was seriously injured, including facial lacerations and injuries to eyebrow and eyelid.
The plaintiff underwent multiple procedures to repair her injuries. She is scheduled for one future surgery.
The plaintiff’s past medical expenses totaled $147,041.35. Her future medical bills totaled $98,884. As the plaintiff was a full time student, she sustained no lost wages.
The plaintiff called her treating plastic surgeon to testify regarding his treatment of the plaintiff.
The plaintiff also called Patrick Hannon, EdD, to offer biomechanical opinions relating to the plaintiff’s likely movements within the vehicle had she been wearing a lap belt.
The plaintiff called automobile consultant Mark Allen to testify that he did not believe there was a seat belt available to the plaintiff on the date of the crash.
The defendant Discount Cab/Camara called Robert Anderson as their accident reconstruction, biomechanical, human factors, and automobile inspection expert. Mr. Anderson testified that it was his opinion that defendant Hammond was speeding (63 mph in 40 mph zone). He also testified that he believed there was a lap belt available for the plaintiff to wear on the date of the crash and, had she worn that belt, the plaintiff would have only sustained a bruise on her forehead and a laceration on her tongue. He also testified that the Discount Cab driver, Camara, did not act unreasonably in failing to yield to defendant Hammond’s vehicle.
Past Medical Expenses were $147,041.35 and Future Medical Expenses were estimated at $98,884. As Ms. Walsh was a full time student at the time of the crash, no claim was made for lost wages.
At the start of litigation, the plaintiff entered into a covenant not to execute with the truck driver for an undisclosed amount. Prior to trial, the plaintiff demanded $325,000 from Camara/Total Transit/Discount. Camara/Total Transit/Discount offered $305,000.
After 6 days of trial, during closing argument, the plaintiff asked the jury to find Discount Cab/Camara 100% at fault, award past and future medical expenses of $246,633, $744,000 in general damages, and no reduction in damages for the plaintiff’s nonuse of a seatbelt. The Discount Cab defendants asked the jury to find the plaintiff’s damages to be $250,000 and apportion fault as follows: 90% to the plaintiff; 8% to truck driver defendant; and 2% to Discount Cab/Camara.
The jury retired for 1 hour and returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor in the amount of $990,633, with 100% fault to Discount Cab/Camara, and no reduction in damages for the plaintiff’s alleged nonuse of a seatbelt.
The plaintiff was represented by Scott I. Palumbo of PALUMBO WOLFE & PALUMBO, P.C. and Brett L. Slavicek of TREON AGUIRRE NEWMAN & NORRIS, P.C.