A lawyer representing a Bensalem, Pa., man who was awarded $19.1 million by a Philadelphia jury last week said the plaintiff had initially demanded $250,000 to resolve the case — an auto accident that resulted in a lower leg amputation — a couple years ago.
According to Matthew Casey of Ross Feller Casey, plaintiff Patrick Hennessy had demanded the $250,000 Allstate policy limits of defendant Ryan Caruso, but Allstate declined to pay on more than one occasion. Casey said Allstate offered the policy limits days before jury selection, but that he respectfully declined. Now, Casey said he "firmly believes" his client will be able to collect the full verdict from Allstate.
Allstate was not a named defendant in the suit.
After a three-day trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the jury deliberated for six-and-a-half hours before returning its verdict against Caruso. According to Casey, Caruso will assign his right to sue Allstate for bad faith for the full verdict, which could be in excess of $20 million after delay damages are added, Casey said.
"This case changed from one that should have been settled and was in a position to settle simply by the exchange of a few letters several years ago, and it evolved into a classic example of how a large insurance company put its own interests ahead of the interests of its insured to the great detriment of its insured," Casey said, adding that Caruso’s parents, who were the policyholders, also wrote to Allstate demanding the policy limits be paid.
Casey made demands of $5 million before and $10 million during the trial and Allstate did not respond to either, he said.
The case dates back to July 2009, when Hennessy was a passenger in a car being driven by Caruso. According to the complaint, Caruso rear-ended another car being driven by Bruce Reikow, which resulted in Caruso’s car stalling in the middle of the road. As Hennessy was pushing Caruso’s car off to the side of the road, another car being driven by Shawn Robertson Jr. rear-ended the Reikow vehicle, pushing it into Hennessy.
As a result of injuries sustained from being struck, Hennessy had to have his right lower leg amputated.
Robertson and Caruso were found negligent, but Casey said Robertson did not respond to the lawsuit, which resulted in a default judgment against him. Under Pennsylvania’s old joint and several liability doctrine, which applied to the case of Hennessy v. Robertson, Caruso would be on the hook for the entire verdict even if found 1 percent liable.
The jury found Caruso 45 percent liable and allocated the remaining 55 percent of the damages to Robertson, according to Casey.
Caruso’s trial counsel, Daniel J. Divis of Gerolamo, McNulty, Divis & Lewbart in Philadelphia, argued that his client was not the factual cause of the accident, according to Casey, pinning liability on Robertson. Divis did not immediately return a call requesting comment.
Casey said his accident reconstruction expert, Steven M. Schorr, explained to the jury that the first accident in which Caruso rear-ended Reikow created the dangerous condition and that Hennessy would not have been injured but for that accident.
Caruso denied liability in court papers and demanded judgment against other parties.
Hennessy presented claims for past and future medical expenses and personal care expenses, and for non-economic damages. The jury awarded total damages of $19,145,904.
Casey said Marshall Walthew of Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia is representing Allstate. Walthew did not return a call requesting comment.