Betty-Jean Landeen v. Kate Dibble et al.: A woman whose vehicle was hit head-on in a car crash two years ago has recovered nearly $250,000 in damages following a trial in New Britain.
Betty-Jean Landeen, 50, of Bristol, was driving east on Meriden Avenue on her way to work in Southington at around 7 a.m. Jan. 14, 2009. As Landeen approached the intersection with Carter Lane, she said that another driver, Kate Dibble, 19, turned left in front of her, causing the head-on collision.
Landeen’s lawyers, Brian M. Flood and Patricia Cruz of Moore, O’Brien, Jacques & Yelenak in Cheshire, said the defense claimed a different version of events. Dibble claimed that Landeen was driving too fast and crossed the double yellow lines prior to attempting her left-hand turn.
However, the lawyers said that a witness to the accident, who coincidentally happened to know the defendant, testified at the trial that Landeen’s account of the accident was accurate.
After the crash, Landeen experienced neck and back pain, with the neck injury being the more severe of the two. Her lawyers explained that Landeen had neck pain that radiated down her arms from a herniated disc. She also developed muscle pain.
Her doctor, Ronald Paret, opined that she had 5 percent permanent impairment to her cervical spine. The doctor said that surgery was not an option for this injury; Landeen has been undergoing a pain management program consisting primarily of chiropractic care. Landeen’s medical bills have totaled $25,446 and she continues to undergo treatment.
Landeen’s doctor believed that she might have had the herniation even before the car accident ever happened but that it was asymptomatic and that the impact triggered the radiating pain in her arms.
Cruz explained that Landeen was an office manager at a medical facility at the time of the accident. The lawyer said that Landeen lost that job and a subsequent job.
“Because of the pain she had, she wasn’t able to work up to her abilities,” said Cruz.
Flood, the other plaintiff’s attorney, said that Dr. Elizabeth Reardon testified at the trial. Reardon worked at the doctor’s office that employed Landeen at the time of the accident.
“I think her testimony was instrumental, certainly,” said Flood. “She was extremely credible, believable. She saw [the plaintiff] on a daily basis and was able to relay to the jury just what she saw with Betty-Jean and how she had been transformed from before to after the accident.”
The responding police officer at the accident also testified at the trial, Landeen’s lawyers said.
These days, the lawyers said, Landeen is working at another doctor’s office and trying to cope with the pain. Lost wages were not part of the lawsuit.
Dibble, conversely, was uninjured in the crash. Her lawyer, Eric R. Schwerzmann, of Regnier, Taylor, Curran & Eddy in Hartford, did not return repeated calls for comment by press time last week.
Flood said the defendant’s insurance policy limits were $100,000, which the plaintiff sought in order to avoid going to trial. However, the insurance company, USAA, never made a formal offer and was not interested in settling for anything above the $50,000 to $75,000 range.
“My client would have settled the case had they simply paid the policy limits, but the insurance company wouldn’t do that,” said Flood.
The trial took place in New Britain before Judge Joseph M. Shortall the week leading up to Christmas. The jury returned a verdict of $249,754 on Dec. 23 after deliberating between five and six hours. Roughly $25,000 of that amount was for the past medical bills with the rest for non-economic damages.
Landeen’s lawyers said the jury found Dibble 90 percent negligent. Jurors found Landeen 10 percent negligent, presumably for driving too fast. “It was a good verdict,” said Flood. “She was satisfied with the result.”