verdicts and settlements
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Date of Verdict:

Nov. 16.

Court and Case No.:

C.P. Philadelphia No. 141002332.

Judge:

Frederica A. Massiah-Jackson.

Type of Action:

Insurance coverage, motor vehicle, parental liability.

Injuries:

Lower back, shoulder fracture, brain injury.

Plaintiffs Counsel:

Bethany R. Nikitenko, McLaughlin & Lauricella, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

Claire B. Neiger; Goldberg, Miller & Rubin; Philadelphia.

Plaintiffs Expert:

Randall Smith, orthopedic surgery, Bala Cynwyd.

Defense Expert:

David Glaser, orthopedic surgery, Philadelphia.

Comment:

A jury awards a minor passenger of a vehicle who was involved in a rollover accident in which alcohol played a part $10,000.

On Oct. 28, 2012, in the early morning hours, plaintiff Robert Matthews, 19, was a front-seat passenger in a car that was involved in an accident on Frankford Ave., in Northeast Philadelphia. The car, a 1999 Chrysler Sebring, had been allegedly speeding when it struck about three parked vehicles. The plaintiff suffered multiple fractures and an alleged traumatic brain injury. Prior to the accident, Matthews and the driver had attended a party at the home of Jeremy and Maria Gruninger, of Philadelphia. The couple had allegedly supplied alcohol to guests, some of whom were underage, including Matthews and the driver of the Sebring.

Matthews and the driver reached a settlement for the driver’s insurance policy limit of $100,000, and Matthews pursued an underinsured-motorist claim against his insurer, State Farm, which had provided a $100,000 UIM policy. (State Farm employee Kevin McDonnell was also sued, and later dismissed.)

The plaintiff in addition sued the Gruningers, alleging that they were negligent for supplying alcohol to underage individuals.

Given Matthews’ separate claims against the parties, the case proceeded to a bifurcated trial, in which the claim against the Gruningers was tried first, focusing on the couple’s alleged furnishing of alcohol to underage individuals.

The Gruningers maintained that it was never determined whether the driver of Matthews’ vehicle was intoxicated at the time of the accident, since his blood-alcohol level was never tested.

Following the first phase of trial, the jury found that the driver was 100 percent liable. The trial then proceeded on Matthews’ UIM claim against State Farm.

Matthews, who was rendered unconscious and has no recollection of the accident, was taken by ambulance to a hospital. He was diagnosed with a fracture to his right (dominant) clavicle, pelvic fractures (the pubic ramus and the sacral ala), a right rotator-cuff injury (nontear), a herniation at lumbar intervertebral disc L4-5, and a traumatic brain injury.

Matthews was admitted and immobilized for four days. Upon discharge, he remained bedridden for about three months, and thereafter treated with approximately three months of physical therapy (e.g., massage, exercise). He consulted with an orthopedic surgeon, which he continued to do at the time of trial. He also consulted with a neurologist for about a year post-accident and underwent some neuropsychological testing. He was determined to have suffered cognitive impairment, which included difficulty concentrating, inability to form words (aphasia), difficulty sleeping, and depression. He treated with medications for the conditions. No further treatment was rendered.

State Farm’s expert in orthopedic surgery, who examined the plaintiff, determined that he made a full recovery from his injuries and experienced no ongoing deficits.

The jury, which deliberated for an hour-and-a-half, determined that Matthews would receive $10,000, but for the plaintiff to recover any amount determined by the jury, the amount would have to exceed the $100,000 which Matthews settled for with the driver; therefore, he would recover nothing.

Plaintiff’s counsel, Bethany R. Nikitenko of McLaughlin & Lauricella in Philadelphia, did not respond to calls for comment.

— This report first appeared on VerdictSearch, an ALM publication •

Date of Verdict:

Nov. 16.

Court and Case No.:

C.P. Philadelphia No. 141002332.

Judge:

Frederica A. Massiah-Jackson.

Type of Action:

Insurance coverage, motor vehicle, parental liability.

Injuries:

Lower back, shoulder fracture, brain injury.

Plaintiffs Counsel:

Bethany R. Nikitenko, McLaughlin & Lauricella, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

Claire B. Neiger; Goldberg, Miller & Rubin; Philadelphia.

Plaintiffs Expert:

Randall Smith, orthopedic surgery, Bala Cynwyd.

Defense Expert:

David Glaser, orthopedic surgery, Philadelphia.

Comment:

A jury awards a minor passenger of a vehicle who was involved in a rollover accident in which alcohol played a part $10,000.

On Oct. 28, 2012, in the early morning hours, plaintiff Robert Matthews, 19, was a front-seat passenger in a car that was involved in an accident on Frankford Ave., in Northeast Philadelphia. The car, a 1999 Chrysler Sebring, had been allegedly speeding when it struck about three parked vehicles. The plaintiff suffered multiple fractures and an alleged traumatic brain injury. Prior to the accident, Matthews and the driver had attended a party at the home of Jeremy and Maria Gruninger, of Philadelphia. The couple had allegedly supplied alcohol to guests, some of whom were underage, including Matthews and the driver of the Sebring.

Matthews and the driver reached a settlement for the driver’s insurance policy limit of $100,000, and Matthews pursued an underinsured-motorist claim against his insurer, State Farm , which had provided a $100,000 UIM policy. ( State Farm employee Kevin McDonnell was also sued, and later dismissed.)

The plaintiff in addition sued the Gruningers, alleging that they were negligent for supplying alcohol to underage individuals.

Given Matthews’ separate claims against the parties, the case proceeded to a bifurcated trial, in which the claim against the Gruningers was tried first, focusing on the couple’s alleged furnishing of alcohol to underage individuals.

The Gruningers maintained that it was never determined whether the driver of Matthews’ vehicle was intoxicated at the time of the accident, since his blood-alcohol level was never tested.

Following the first phase of trial, the jury found that the driver was 100 percent liable. The trial then proceeded on Matthews’ UIM claim against State Farm .

Matthews, who was rendered unconscious and has no recollection of the accident, was taken by ambulance to a hospital. He was diagnosed with a fracture to his right (dominant) clavicle, pelvic fractures (the pubic ramus and the sacral ala), a right rotator-cuff injury (nontear), a herniation at lumbar intervertebral disc L4-5, and a traumatic brain injury.

Matthews was admitted and immobilized for four days. Upon discharge, he remained bedridden for about three months, and thereafter treated with approximately three months of physical therapy (e.g., massage, exercise). He consulted with an orthopedic surgeon, which he continued to do at the time of trial. He also consulted with a neurologist for about a year post-accident and underwent some neuropsychological testing. He was determined to have suffered cognitive impairment, which included difficulty concentrating, inability to form words (aphasia), difficulty sleeping, and depression. He treated with medications for the conditions. No further treatment was rendered.

State Farm ‘s expert in orthopedic surgery, who examined the plaintiff, determined that he made a full recovery from his injuries and experienced no ongoing deficits.

The jury, which deliberated for an hour-and-a-half, determined that Matthews would receive $10,000, but for the plaintiff to recover any amount determined by the jury, the amount would have to exceed the $100,000 which Matthews settled for with the driver; therefore, he would recover nothing.

Plaintiff’s counsel, Bethany R. Nikitenko of McLaughlin & Lauricella in Philadelphia, did not respond to calls for comment.

— This report first appeared on VerdictSearch, an ALM publication •