Monday, June 22, 2009

Recent Jury Verdict Entered in Pike County in Automobile Accident Case

According to the June 19, 2009 edition of the Pike County Legal Journal a recent jury verdict was handed down on June 12, 2009 in the Pike County automobile accident case of AURORA AND DONALD BEACH, Plaintiffs v. CHRISTINE SCHAEFERS, JESUS DIAZ, and DELBY DIAZ, Defendents, Docket No. 76-2005-Civil.

The case arose out of a car accident that occurred at around 7 p.m. on February 14, 2003 on U.S. Route 6 in Westfall Township at the light for the on-ramp to Interstate 84 around 7 p.m. The Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle being operated by Defendant Diaz.

Defendant Schaefers, prior attempting to make a left turn onto the I-84 on ramp, came to a stop in straight travel lane, as opposed to the left-hand turning lane. While stopped in the traffic lane, Defendant Schaefer's vehicle was rear-ended by Defendant Diaz's vehicle in which the Plaintiff, Aurora Beach, was located as a passenger. The Plaintiff alleged injuries to her to both her right knee and lower back.

It was undisputed that Defendant Schaefers was not in the left hand turning lane and was stopped in the wrong long lane of travel for such a turn. It was also undisputed that the left hand turning lane had a red light while the remaining straight lanes of travel, in which Schaefers’ vehicle was stopped, had a green light.

Both sides submitted the testimony of medical experts concerning the injuries Plaintiff sustained as a result of the accident and her need for future medical treatment. Testimony revealed Plaintiff had a herniated disc in her lower back and that she had undergone two knee surgeries and would probably need a knee replacement in the future. At the time of trial, Plaintiff was 23 years of age and had a life expectancy of 64.9 years.

Following a two-day jury trial, the jury entered a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff in the amount of $310,000. The jury found Defendant Schaeffers 80% negligent for stopping in the wrong lane of travel and found Defendant Delby Diaz 20% negligent for rear-ending the Schaefer vehicle.

The jury awarded the Plaintiff $300,000 for future medical expenses, but only $5,000 for pain and suffering, and only $5,000 for loss of enjoyment of life, for a total award of $310,000. The jury made no award for disfigurement or embarrassment and humiliation.

It appears that the Pike County jury bought into an argument that the Plaintiff may need future medical treatment, including surgery. Showing that the county is still relatively conservative when it comes to pain and suffering awards, the jury may have felt that, as long as the Plaintiff is able to treat with the medical expenses damages awarded, then the Plaintiff should have less pain and suffering. Of course, this is speculation and only a suggestion as to how the jury may have come to their decision.

The Presiding Judge at trial was the Honorable Gregory H. Chelak. Plaintiff's counsel was Danielle Mulcahey, Esquire from the Scranton law firm of Wright & Reihner. Defendant Schaefer was represented by Kevin Hayes, Esquire of the Scranton law firm of Scanlon, Howley & Doherty. Defendant Diaz was represented by the Scranton law firm of Byrne, Neyhart & Higgins.

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