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A North Carolina man who was severely injured when a van ran head-on into his car has been awarded $60 million by a Virginia jury. Brian F. Hugen suffered a traumatic brain injury, multiple leg and jaw fractures and other complications. On Aug. 28, 2000, Hugen, then 38, was driving his Toyota on Route 32 in rural Suffolk, Va. The accident occurred when Alvin Winston, an employee of Velocity Express Mid-Atlantic Inc., allowed the company-owned van he was driving to drift into oncoming traffic. The van first sideswiped a car driven by Michael Ross, who was traveling ahead of Hugen, and then continued toward the plaintiff. Following the collision, Hugen was taken by helicopter to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital where he remained in a coma for 62 days. In addition to the fractures and closed head injury, he suffered two collapsed lungs, multiple episodes of sepsis and pneumonia, numerous deep-vein thromboses and bone growth in his joints which will limit his future mobility. Hugen sued Velocity Express and Winston. Ross, a convicted felon and non-party, testified as to the drifting of the Velocity Express van, and evidence of tire and scrape marks in Hugen’s lane supported the plaintiff’s contention that the van had crossed over the center line. In his testimony at the trial, Winston failed to offer any explanation as to how he came to hit Hugen’s car. Winston was dropped from the suit. Velocity Express focused on the extent of care that Hugen, a former truck driver, would require. The plaintiff’s expert estimated that it would cost $550,000 a year for the 35.1 years he was expected to live; the defense expert put the number at $150,000, arguing that Hugen’s wife would be able to provide most of his care in lieu of a home health aide. The verdict came down on Aug. 23. Defense motions to set it aside as excessive and for a new trial have been filed. Plaintiff’s attorneys: John W. Drescher and Jeffrey A. Breit of Breit, Drescher & Breit in Norfolk, Va.; Boyd Scarborough of Griffin, Pappas & Scarborough in Portsmouth, Va. Defense attorneys: John K. Train IV and Evette Renee Young of Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial in Atlanta.

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