Jack Arisian v. 21st Century Insurance Co.: A man whose vehicle was hit head-on by a driver who ran a stop sign was recently awarded $100,000 by a Waterbury jury.
Jack Arisian, now 83, of Watertown, was driving on Northfield Road in Watertown at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 12, 2010 when another vehicle ran a stop sign and smashed head-on into Arisian’s car.
The other driver, Cory Winkelman, also of Watertown, was driving 70 mph at the time of the crash, according to Arisian’s lawyer, Matthew Dodd, of the Dodd Law Firm in Cheshire. “Unfortunately my client was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Dodd.
The attorney said Arisian initially thought he was having a heart attack immediately after the crash. Arisian was having trouble breathing and paramedics and firefighters who responded to the crash scene also thought the crash may have triggered a heart attack.
Arisian spent the next several nights in the hospital while doctors ran a series of tests. They ultimately found no sign of a heart attack and Arisian was released from the hospital.
But Arisian did have time for lingering shoulder pain. His doctor diagnosed him with a right rotator cuff tear caused by the accident. Arisian received physical therapy and shots to reduce the pain. His doctor later rated him with a 10 percent permanent partial disability rating in his right shoulder. Dodd said his client still struggles with shoulder pain.
“The one thing that affects him the most is his sleeping,” said Dodd. “Before the accident he could sleep most nights with no problem. Now since the injury he usually gets up almost every two hours and stays up 15 to 20 minutes, because when he rolls over on his right side it wakes him up because of the pain.”
Dodd settled Arisian’s claim with the other driver, Winkelman, for the policy limit of $20,000. Dodd then filed a lawsuit on Arisian’s behalf against his client’s insurance carrier, 21st Century Insurance Co., for underinsured motorist benefits.
Dodd was mainly seeking non-economic damages as Arisian did not seek economic damages for lost wages or for medical bills.
21st Century Insurance was represented in the case by Christy Centeno, of the Rodd Mantell Law Office in West Hartford, which handles the insurer’s claims. Centeno did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
Dodd said 21st Century Insurance sent Arisian for an independent medical exam and the doctor opined that there was no rotator cuff tear, no 10 percent permanent partial disability rating and that the shoulder injury was simply a sprain or strain.
As such, Dodd said the insurance companny lawyer offered $2,500 prior to jury selection to settle the case. Dodd said the smallest amount his client would have accepted was $45,000.
The case then went to trial last month before Judge Terence Zemetis in Waterbury Superior Court. Evidence presentation lasted one day with Arisian being the lone in-court witness. The independent doctor’s deposition was played in court and Arisian’s own doctor’s written report was admitted into evidence.
Liability was not contested by 21st Century Insurance so the trial was essentially a hearing in damages. The jury deliberated for around 90 minutes before awarding Arisian $100,000.
Dodd said $20,000 was deducted from that award due to the previous settlement with the other driver’s insurer. Because Dodd had filed an offer of compromise, $11,888 in interest will be added to the remaining $80,000, for a total of $91,888.
Dodd said 21st Century Insurance did not appeal the jury’s decision.
“I think [Arisian] made a good witness,” said Dodd. “[The jury] generally liked him and felt sorry for him. This is a guy that has a legitimate injury.”