Dario Correa v. Miguel Rodriguez: A Hartford man who injured his back after getting rear-ended at a red light was awarded $65,600 by a jury recently after turning down a defense settlement offer of $19,000.
Dario Correa, 38, was operating his 2000 Mazda north on Wethersfield Avenue at about 2 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2011. Correa came to a stop behind a pick-up truck at the intersection with Wawarme Avenue in Hartford.
Another vehicle, driven by Miguel Rodriguez, 28, also of Hartford, drove into the rear-end of Correa’s Mazda, which in turn smashed into the pick-up in front of him. According to Correa’s attorney, J. Xavier Pryor, of Hartford, the pick-up driver took off from the crash scene despite damage to his vehicle. Pryor said Correa’s car was totaled from damage to both the front and back ends.
Pryor said there was no evidence to prove that Rodriguez was speeding, but he also “didn’t appear cognizant he was coming upon two stopped vehicles.”
Correa suffered injuries to the middle of his back, his lower back and neck. The mid-back, or thoracic, injury was the worst of the three, with his chiropractor assessing a 6 percent permanent partial disability rating. Pryor said his client still has lingering neck pain from time to time. He said the low back injury resolved pretty quickly.
Pryor said his client worked as a machinist and did not miss any work time due to the back pain. The defense argued that point in an effort to minimize the damages award. “Not everyone has the luxury of being able to miss work,” said Pryor. “He had a wife and a family to support. He had to go to work.”
Even while on the job, Correa dealt with plenty of back pain, which affected everything he did. “After a day’s activities, he pays the price in pain,” said Pryor.
Pryor said his client is originally from the Dominican Republic and baseball is a big part of his life. He continues to play in baseball and softball leagues, though the back injury has limited his participation.
“He testified that he had to give up softball,” said Pryor. In baseball, he can no longer play catcher and can do little more than serve as a pinch hitter. “Baseball was a big part of his life. He has difficulty doing that activity with his son which was a big loss for him,” said Pryor.
Pryor filed a negligence lawsuit against Rodriguez on his client behalf. Rodriguez was defended by Kelly Saucier, of Sheffy, Mazzaccaro, DePaolo, & DeNigris in Southington. Saucier did not respond to an interview request for this article.
Pryor said the defense focused on the fact that Correa had had a drink the night of the accident. However, Pryor pointed out that police never gave Correa a blood-alcohol test.
“They alleged that my client had been drinking and was operating under the influence of alcohol because he stated to the ambulance attendant and at the hospital that he had a drink that night,” said Pryor. “My argument to the jury was that it’s only illegal to operate your vehicle at above .08. Having one drink and operating a vehicle is not illegal.”
Pryor said the defense offered $19,000 to settle the case and indicated a willingness to go to $20,000 if it meant not having to go to trial. However, Correa wanted $25,000 and was willing to go to trial if that figure was not met.
The trial, lasting a day-and-a-half, was held last month before Hartford Superior Court Judge Robert Vacchelli. Correa, as well as his chiropractor and physiatrist testified. The defense presented no witnesses, nor any medical documentation refuting Correa’s injury claims.
Ultimately, the jury came back with a verdict totaling $65,600. Of that amount, $15,600 was for economic damages and $50,000 for non-economic damages. Pryor had asked the jury for around $85,000 in total damages.
Saucier, the defense lawyer in the case, has filed standard post-trial motions, including one requesting a reduction of the jury’s award.