A Gwinnett County State Court jury awarded $736,000 to a woman whose 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser was sideswiped by a truck that she chased down on Interstate 285, honking until the driver pulled over.
The defense presented a poster-sized pictures showing limited damage to the PT Cruiser, and a police report noting that its driver, Nancy Wells, wasn’t complaining of injury as she confronted the trucker after the collision in November 2014.
Defense attorneys Bruce Taylor and Melody Kiella of Drew Eckl Farnham represented the truck driver, Michael Senior, his company, VIP Auto Logistics, and its insurer, Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Insurance Co.
They denied that the shoulder injuries Wells claimed were caused by the sideswipe and denied claims of bad faith, according to the defense outline in the consolidated pretrial order.
Through the police report, they were able to show that their driver had not been cited for hit-and-run or for violating any Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, but only for failure to maintain lane.
The defense attorneys couldn’t be reached.
The trial before Judge Shawn Bratton was for damages-only, as Bratton had already struck the defendant’s answer for failure to appear at depositions.
The jury returned a verdict on Wednesday, the third day of trial, awarding $175,921 for past medical expenses, $350,000 for pain and suffering and $210,368 for legal costs.
Wells was represented by Michael Neff, Dwayne Adams, Susan Cremer and Shane Peagler of Neff Law. They managed to convince the jury that two shoulder surgeries she underwent after the accident were a result of the truck hitting the driver’s side of her PT Cruiser. They said they presented testimony from her treating physician to rule out other causes for her shoulder surgeries. And they said they offered testimony from a trucking expert to say the driver who hit her violated safety rules, admitting he was rushing to make a delivery when he sideswiped the Cruiser and kept going.
The Neff team said the defense offered $300,000 to settle before the trial and $400,000 during the trial. But the Neff team asked for $600,000. Settlement discussions ended there, they said.
Neff said jury selection was unique in that it resulted in selecting two professional truck drivers to sit on the jury.
“It was a gutsy move,” Neff said. “My first thought was not to keep them on the jury. Dwayne and Shane talked me into not using peremptory challenges on them.”
“Our case wasn’t against all truck drivers,” Adams said. “It was against a truck driver and trucking company who didn’t follow the basic safety rules. We trusted the two truck drivers would follow the rules and do the right thing while on the jury.”
The case is Wells v. Senior, No. 16-C-06477-2.