A six-person jury has found for the defense in the case of a former Goshen woman who says she exacerbated existing injuries to her back, right arm, left knee and left leg following an April 2014 car crash.
Attorneys for Mary Louise Hawk, 64, alleged she was hurt as a direct cause to the rear-end collision, and in closing arguments sought $950,000. But the Litchfield Superior Court jury—which heard conflicted testimony about how and when Hawk was injured—returned a verdict for the defense.
After deliberating for fours on June 1, the jury voted to award no damages to Hawk, whose doctors’ testimony contradicted her own.
While defense counsel John Majewski conceded negligence on the part of the driver who struck Hawk, he said there was no proximate cause and that Hawk’s injuries were not related to the accident. His client, Jennifer Bournival, hit Hawk’s vehicle. But the case hinged on Hawk, and was flawed from the beginning, according to Majewski, of counsel at Tinley. Renehan & Dost in Waterbury.
“The case really turned on the plaintiff’s credibility. She was not credible because she said in deposition that she definitely told all of the emergency personnel that she had knee pain at the scene,” Majewski said. “Ms. Hawk said she told personnel that she could not move her leg. She modified her response at the time of trial.”
“The responses by Ms. Hawk at trial was that maybe she told emergency personnel of her knee pain and maybe she did not,” Majewski added.
The defense argued that no personnel from the ambulance, fire, EMT or emergency room triage were able to corroborate Hawk’s claim she complained of knee pain, which was the most serious of her injuries.
“She testified that she struck her left knee so hard on the steering wheel that she had immediate knee pain at the scene and could not move her left leg at the time,” Majewski told the Connecticut Law Tribune on Tuesday. “The problem is none of the records identified that history or complaint. What won our case was her lack of credibility.”
Hawk testified at trial for about eight hours over three days, and also brought in several doctors as witnesses. Among her experts were Dr. Edmund Quinn, her primary care physician who cared for her prior to the accident.
“Dr. Quinn was actively treating her,” Majewski said. “He had to concede that she was actively being treated for arthritic conditions of both the cervical and lumbar spine.”
Another key witness, Connecticut orthopedist Dr. Dennis Rodin, was also treating Hawk.
Rodin testified that Hawk did not complain about knee pain until five weeks after the accident, which contradicted Hawk’s claim of immediate injury, Majewski said.
The April 2016 lawsuit filed on Hawk’s behalf alleges the collision was the cause for injuries to her back, right arm, left leg and left knee. The suit claims Hawk suffered multiple contusions and had an increased risk of future medical complications because of the accident. It also alleges Hawk’s injuries were a direct result of Bournival’s “negligence and carelessness.”
According to the complaint, Hawk was traveling east on Migeon Avenue in Torrington when she slowed her vehicle to a stop at the intersection with North Elm Street. It was then, the suit claims, that Bournival’s vehicle did not stop and rear-ended Hawk’s vehicle. Bournival was given a ticket for following too closely.
Hawk, who now lives in Boerne, Texas, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Her attorney, D’Amico & Pettinicchi partner Thomas Pettinicchi, did not respond to a request for comment.
Majewski said there were no major obstacles or hurdles he faced in putting on the defense.
“The jury simply did not believe her,” he said. “You have to be truthful. There has to be [a] foundation of truth, or else the house collapses.”
It was unclear Tuesday if Hawk intends raise a challenge before the Connecticut Appellate Court.