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Attorney Mary F Courtney instrumental in $4.5 Million Dollar Settlement

Allege tractor-trailer driver asleep when struck the rear of disabled truck on turnpike going 55 MPH

The plaintiff driver and his two passengers were involved in a rear-end motor vehicle collision on the Massachusetts Turnpike on September 30, 2013. On that date, at approximately 8:00 PM, their Ford F-150 became disabled, having lost all power. They were able to negotiate the vehicle into the far right-hand lane of a remote area on the turnpike.

The plaintiffs allegedly contacted by phone AAA, which patched them through to the Massachusetts State Police barracks in Russell. The state police reportedly instructed plaintiffs to remain in the vehicle and that a cruiser was on route to the scene. Plaintiffs’ contended that the State Police instruction to remain in the vehicle is consistent with the signage in this area of the turnpike.

The defendant operator was driving a tandem tractor trailer when he came upon the plaintiff’s vehicle. The defendant operator struck the rear of the plaintiffs at 55 MPH. Within minutes of impact, the State Police arrived on the scene. The trooper observed the plaintiff and his front seat passenger lying on the floor of the truck, moving slightly with what he described in his report as serious head wounds. Smashing the window, he was unable to get the doors open. It was not until after a wrecker was called to the scene and the two front plaintiffs were extracted that the trooper observed the third passenger, in the backseat, dead.

Through discovery, plaintiffs’ counsel were able to obtain information from other travelers on the Massachusetts Turnpike that evening who had observed plaintiff’s vehicle broken down in the minutes prior to the collision. In affidavits, those other travelers stated that they had seen the plaintiffs emergency flashers illuminated and working, and also saw other tractor-trailers successfully maneuver around plaintiffs vehicle.

Through discovery, plaintiffs’ attorneys were able to obtain a medical report demonstrating that the defendant operator had reported to a physician twelve (12) days prior to the accident that he was not getting sufficient restful sleep.

The Plaintiff operator was rushed to Baystate Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with multiple closed rib fractures, fractures of both scapulae, a concussion, a burst fracture of the first lumbar vertebra, and a left hemothorax. He underwent surgery consisting of a left chest tube, with decompression of a tension pneumothorax on the left, and an open decompression of the L1 burst fracture, with pedicle fixation across T12, L1, and L2, and arthrodesis across both disc levels, using augmented fusion grafting, with allograft and harvested autograft. He remained at Baystate Medical Center until October 11, when he was discharged to Berkshire Medical Center near his home, in Pittsfield. He remained at Berkshire until October 18, when he was discharged home, where he was bedridden for several months. He was not able to return to any form of work until 8 months after this accident, and cannot return to his former field of employment as a welder due to his injuries. In this regard, since coming to the United States from Ecuador almost 15 years ago, plaintiff worked as a welder, fabricating dumpsters. This position required him to routinely lift heavy steel. As a consequence of this accident, Plaintiff operator has a permanent thoracolumbar spine impairment of 51% with a 38% whole person impairment (AMA Guidelines 5th ed.). He experienced a loss of income of approx. $25,000 per year. Over his work life, his total lost earnings capacity is estimated to be $1,025,000. Prior to the accident, he led an active lifestyle prior to the accident, reporting to hospital staff that he played soccer twice each week, and worked out at the gym four (4) times per week. He can no longer participate in any of these activities due to his impairments and limitations.

The plaintiff’s alleged that as a result of this crash the plaintiff passenger in the back seat was killed, while her husband in the front seat sustained serious injuries.

Upon arrival to Baystate, the plaintiff front seat passenger was diagnosed with a right acromion (scapula) fracture, nasal bone fracture, T9- pedicle left (thorasic) fracture, small left hemothorax (blood in chest wall cavity), left ribs fracture 4-9 with 7-9 displaced, posterior R1 rib fracture and LOC/concussion. A Pulmonary Function Test (“PFT”) was performed which indicated severe restriction. Another chest x-ray was performed on October 1, 2013 which indicated, low lung volumes with bibasilar densities suggestive of atelectasis (lung collapse/obstruction), and multiple left-sided fractures. In total the plaintiff’s injuries included nine (9) fractured bones, a partially collapsed lung and a traumatic brain injury.

The plaintiff was required to undergo two surgeries, was unable to work for four months and was forced to become a single parent to his seven-year-old daughter and seventeen-year-old son, as their mother had been killed in the collision

The plaintiff back seat passenger was the 37-year-old wife of the front seat passenger, and mother of two minor children, ages 7 and 17. The state medical examiner’s autopsy reported that she was killed due to traumatic head injuries from the collision resulting in multiple skull fractures.
The plaintiffs were prepared to show, and at the time of the mediation had filed their Motion to Amend their complaint to include a claim for punitive damages and violations of c. 93A against the Defendant motor carriers due to their failure to properly hire and supervise their employees. Plaintiffs were prepared to show authority that the defendants’ acts and omission were in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Transportation Safety Act, and that their acts and omissions were so egregious as to warrant imposition of punitive damages. The defendants disputed plaintiffs’ claim that the operator was asleep and contended that he had begun to take action to avoid the collision as soon as he observed the vehicle unexpectedly stopped in his lane of travel. The defendants were also prepared to show that the defendant driver had a valid license and Medical Examiner’s Certificate and that other tractor-trailer drivers that passed the disabled vehicle prior to the collision noted its lights were very dim.

Action:                      Motor vehicle negligence, wrongful death

Injuries alleged:       Multiple fractures and surgeries; death

Case name:             Withheld

Court/ Case No.:      Withheld

Jury and/or Judge:   N/A (settled at mediation); Brian Mone, Commonwealth Mediation

Amount:                    $4.45 million

Date:                         August 18, 2015

Attorneys:                 Mary F. Courtney and Richard J. O’Brien, Pittsfield, Massachusetts for the Plaintiffs