Tyler Pollock, PPA v. Michael Lambert, et al.: A high school student who suffered a severe head injury after he was struck by a car driven by a classmate recovered $1.2 million in a recent settlement.
On Saturday, May 7, 2011, Tyler Pollock, then 17, took the SAT tests at Simsbury High School, though he was a student at Granby High School. After the tests, Pollock went to the home of his friend, Nicholas McGarrahan, in Granby. But McGarrahan had mistakenly left his backpack at Simsbury High School and his father, Roger McGarrahan, was going to drive him back to retrieve it.
On the way, Roger McGarrahan dropped Pollock off in the parking area of Salmon Brook Park in Granby. It was 2:15 p.m. and Pollock was going to meet up with another friend.
Pollock's lawyer, Michael Jainchill, of RisCassi & Davis in Hartford, explained that Pollock walked a short distance along Salmon Brook Street, then entered a crosswalk leading to the park. It was a busy spring Saturday at the park, and there was a great deal of traffic in the area.
One of the motorists was Michael Lambert, also a Granby High student, who was driving a 2000 Subaru Outback wagon. Jainchill said Lambert was talking on his cell phone with his father as he was driving along Salmon Brook Street as Pollock began to cross the road. Lambert did not see Pollock and drove right into him.
Jainchill said Pollock was in the clearly-marked, white-painted crosswalk. He said there were pedestrian crossing signs posted north and south of the crosswalk.
Witnesses observed Lambert looking down as he struck Pollock and then saw his head pop up after impact. Lambert and his parents acknowledged during depositions that he was talking to his father on his cell phone at the time. Initially, because Lambert had been looking down, Jainchill thought he might be texting.
Lambert was charged criminally with second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, and ticketed for driving with a cell phone and not giving a pedestrian the right of way at a crosswalk. Lambert was granted accelerated rehabilitation.
After getting hit by the Subaru, Pollock lay in the roadway unconscious. Bystanders tried to support the area around his spine in case it had been injured. Paramedics arrived, and took Pollock to Hartford Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. A CT scan of his head revealed multiple areas of bleeding. While he had no spinal fractures, he did have a broken left arm.
Jainchill said that Pollock was rushed into surgery to treat the bleeding near his brain and skull. A portion of Pollock's skull needed to be removed in order to ease the pressure on his brain.
A plastic helmet was put on to protect the area where the bone had been removed. The removed bone was kept frozen in a sterile environment and was later re-placed during a follow-up surgery after the swelling subsided.
Pollock remained in a coma for roughly 21 days after the crash. On June 13, 2011 he was transferred to Gaylord Hospital, a rehabilitation facility in Wallingford. Except for a brief period in Hartford Hospital for his second surgery, he was at Gaylord until August 11, 2011, when he finally came home.
"I think back to the first time I met him at Gaylord before he had surgery to replace the bone that was taken from his skull," recalled Jainchill. "He couldn't speak, his arms were tightly wrapped around his chest, wearing a plastic helmet. I knew he could understand what was going on but he really had difficulty communicating."
Jainchill said Pollock has no recollection of the accident.
"His first recollection after the accident is being in Hartford Hospital in June surrounded by friends and family," according to court documents. "He has described his recollection of the scene as a 'death vigil' and, at his deposition, he became emotional remembering his friends and family 'standing over me, not knowing…if I was still in there. Everyone was so sad.'"
Jainchill said even as Pollock began to recover, he had trouble speaking and walking, and he developed a problem with seizures. He now takes medicine daily to prevent seizures and has otherwise made great strides.
"He had a pretty serious traumatic brain injury but made a miraculous recovery," said Jainchill. "You can tell he has some deficits… memory, speech and language — he still has word-finding problems — and headaches. But if you were to meet him today, and I didn't tell you this was the young man who had this kind of traumatic brain injury, I guarantee you wouldn't guess it."
Pollock was a good student through his junior year at Granby High School, but his grades suffered after the accident. Still, with the help of special education efforts, Pollock was able to graduate in June 2012 and is currently attending Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where he wants to pursue a career in prosthetic engineering. Still, his condition requires him to take a reduced classload.
Pollock sued his Grancy classmate, Lambert, for negligence and recklessness. The case went to mediation before Judge Antonio C. Robaina. Lambert was represented by Peter J. Ponziani, of Litchfield Cavo in Simsbury. Ponziani was hired by Travelers Insurance. Ponziani did not return repeated calls for comment last week.
Pollock had amassed medical bills exceeding $600,000. The two sides agreed to settle the case for $1.2 million. Jainchill praised the way Ponziani handled the case, leading to the settlement.
"The defense was smart in trying to highlight what was a good recovery [Pollock] made," said Jainchill. "They tried to limit [Travelers'] exposure without minimizing the damages or trying to attack the plaintiff in anyway. That attitude helped us get the case settled, I think."•