Louis R. Battista of Bernheim Dolinsky Kelley. Photo: Courtesy photo

After a defendant was unable to reconcile their testimony with photographs taken from the scene of a motor vehicle collision that left plaintiff Tony Robert Lo Coco with a traumatic brain injury as well as damage to his spine, the parties eventually settled for $2.5 million.

On Aug. 20 2015, Lo Coco, a 29-year-old Comcast sales representative, was riding his motorcycle eastbound on Stickney Point Road in Sarasota, just as Edwin Allen Davies, a Virginia resident vacationing in Siesta Key, was pulling out of a nearby shopping mall in a sedan rented from Hertz. Although Lo Coco — who was not wearing a helmet at the time — jammed on his brakes to avoid striking Davies’ vehicle, he nonetheless was flung from his motorcycle and wound up violently impacting the car.

According to Louis R. Battista, a civil trial attorney with the Fort Lauderdale firm of Bernheim Dolinsky Kelley, it was Davies’ negligence as a driver that caused him and Lo Coco to collide in the first place.

Read the complaint: 

“What really happened was [Davies’] at a stop sign, he’s going to go pull across and he just … pulls out, darts out at the last second,” Battista recounted to the Daily Business Review. “He does mention that there’s a car going westbound that kind of got him hung up, and that could have happened, so he maybe darts out and he’s like, ‘Oh damn … the car’s coming.’ But it doesn’t explain why you just don’t pull up in the median … and the accident doesn’t happen. Poof!”

In addition to fractured ribs, a punctured lung and a spine fracture, the accident left Lo Coco with a minor traumatic brain injury. Battista told the Daily Business Review that his client’s brain injury manifested itself as minor memory problems that gradually began to increase in frequency.

Battista added that he was aware that the defense would argue that it was Lo Coco’s failure to wear a helmet — not Davies’ stopping short — that led him to suffer the brain injury. However, Battista explains that because his client suffered from a deceleration injury, whether or not he was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash was irrelevant.

“When you have a TBI — whether it be a significant one with contusions and brain hemorrhages, or one like this where it doesn’t come up on MRI or CT scan but the brain was obviously shaken — what happens is a deceleration injury. The body and brain [are] moving forward, and it impacts something which decelerates the force,” Battista explained. “That’s how the brain [is] injured; that injury still occurs with a helmet on. If my helmet’s on and you shoot me out of a cannon into a car, when I impact that car … the brain’s still moving [in response to] the impact.”

Davies testified that when he left the shopping center he turned left into the median separating east and westbound lanes. However, Battista described this as a “not truthful” account of events, as photos taken from the scene of the accident as well as Davies’ own statement to Hertz showed that he had not entered the median, but rather, stopped unexpectedly in Lo Coco’s lane of travel, leaving him little time to slow down and enact an evasive maneuver.

“To give [Davies] credit, when he was facing this conflict he didn’t know why he said that, but [noted while looking at the photographs] ‘That definitely is a median and I definitely stopped in your client’s lane of travel,’ ” Battista said. “In his claims form, he specifically stated that he had crossed the eastbound lane. He wanted to turn left, and as he entered the second eastbound lane he noticed a vehicle was coming. And that was really about it. He says, ‘I hesitated.’ So in his own statement when everything was fresh in his mind on that day, he said, ‘I went across the eastbound lanes. I wanted to go left. As I exited the second eastbound lane, I noticed a car coming … I hesitated. And then I saw the motorcycle and … the accident happened.’ ”

The case resolved shortly after the inconsistencies of Davies’ deposition were pointed out, with Battista noting that “ it was resolved before we even mediated.” The Fort Lauderdale attorney said that the strength of the case came from having a “very likable” client and a defendant who only admitted liability “when faced with photographs and his statement that he gave to Hertz.”

“It was a good result for everyone involved,” Battista said. “Lo Coco got what he deserves for his compensation for he was not wrong and he does have an uphill battle. He’s a young guy, and he’s going to need probably multiple surgeries just [on his] thoracic spine over the course of his life. … That’s really going to limit his mobility, so he deserves that kind of recovery.”

Case: Tony Lo Coco v. Edwin Allen Davies

Case No.: 2017-CA-001723 NC

Description: Personal injury — motor vehicle crash

Filing date: April 6, 2017

Settlement date: June 1, 2018

Judge: Sarasota Circuit Judge Hunter W. Carroll

Plaintiffs attorneys: Louis R. Battista, Bernheim Dolinsky Kelley, Fort Lauderdale

Defense attorneys: Daniel Shapiro and Taylor Kaufman, Cole, Scott & Kissane, Tampa

Settlement amount: $2 million

Total settlement amount: $2,500,000 ($2 million, plus $500,000 from another insurance company before this settlement)