A state Superior Court jury has awarded $228,000 to a 48-year-old man injured after the car he was driving was rear-ended at a Bristol intersection.
It took the jury about one hour Sept. 20 to find in favor of Gregory Croze, who reinjured his lower back and left shoulder after he was struck by a vehicle driven by Steven Hack.
Croze also injured his neck, according to Pamela Cameron, his Middlebury-based attorney.
Croze, Hack and two orthopedic surgeons—one for the plaintiff’s side and one for the defense—testified during the two-day trial in Hartford Superior Court.
For Cameron, a major hurdle: Croze had injured his lower back and left shoulder in a 2010 car accident. The accident in which Hack’s vehicle struck his car occurred in August 2016, six years later.
“The biggest challenge for us was he had injuries to the same body parts from his 2010 accident,” said Cameron, a partner with Moore, O’Brien & Foti.
It was up to the attorney to prove that the crash exacerbated Croze’s 2010 injuries. The plaintiff’s team called Prospect-based orthopedic surgeon Patrick Duffy, Croze’s doctor, who testified at trial that “the injuries our client had were caused by this accident, not by the 2010 accident.”
Cameron said Croze testified that he “immediately started to get pain in his left shoulder after the 2016 accident. Prior to the accident, his lower back, he said, was sore sometimes. But, after the accident he told the jury he needed to get injections in his back again. He was a very credible witness.”
Cameron also quoted Jonas Lieponis, the Guilford-based orthopedic surgeon representing the defense, as saying that Croze “sustained soft tissue injuries from the 2016 accident that wasn’t anything major or that caused any further structural damage within the body.”
“Dr. Lieponis said he should have fully recovered from the 2016 injuries within nine to 12 months,” Cameron said.
Now, Cameron said the new injury means her client is still getting injections for his lower back, and has another series of injections slated for October.
Croze, who is a landlord and lives in Bristol, claimed about $78,000 in medical expenses.
According to Cameron, liability was not an issue. She said Hack, who was issued a citation for traveling an unreasonable distance from the car in front of him, admitted liability prior to the trial. The issue at trial, she said, was the nature of the injuries her client suffered and how they related to the 2016 crash.
In court records, the defense acknowledged Hack failed to keep a proper lookout for Croze’s vehicle. The defense’s filings argued the plaintiff’s side would have to prove the injuries were sustained from the 2016 accident.
Raymond Epps, staff counsel for Allstate and an attorney with the Hamden-based Law Office of Mark S. Gilcreast, represented the defense. Epps did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Hartford Superior Court on Feb. 7, Hack failed to keep a proper lookout and apply his brakes in time when he rear-ended Croze’s Ford F-250. Both men were driving west on Farmington Avenue. Hack, Cameron said, testified at trial that he did not see that Croze had begun to stop because the car in front of him was turning left. It was then, Cameron said, that Hack’s vehicle rear-ended Croze’s car.
Epps has until Oct. 10 to file an appeal with the Connecticut Appellate Court. Cameron said she’s optimistic her client will soon receive the money he was awarded. “I do not see any appealable issues,” she said.
Prior to trial the defense offered $50,000, which was turned down, but Cameron suggests a higher offer might have cinched a deal.
The plaintiff’s lawyer said, “We would have settled for less than the verdict.”