Expressway accident blamed on rig driver's loss of control
|Lane Change, Motor Vehicle - Multiple Impact, Motor Vehicle - Multiple Vehicle|
|Bryan Ritzul and Blaga Ritzul v. Consumer Product Service Wojciech Kreciewski and Christine Versailles, No. 26881/09|
|Queens Supreme, NY|
- Andrew M. Laskin; Robinson & Yablon, PC; New York, NY, for Bryan Ritzul, Blaga Ritzul
- Lawrence T. Yablon; Robinson & Yablon, PC; New York, NY, for Bryan Ritzul, Blaga Ritzul
- Joseph S. Holotka; Martyn Toher & Martyn; New Hyde Park, NY, for Christine Versailles, Consumer Product Services, Wojciech Kreciewski
- Peerless Insurance Co. for Consumer Product Services and Kreciewski
On Aug. 29, 2008, plaintiff Bryan Ritzul, 63, a livery vehicle's driver, was driving on the eastbound side of the Long Island Expressway, near its interchange at Jericho Turnpike, in Old Westbury. A tractor-trailer abruptly entered Ritzul's path. Ritzul avoided a collision, but he lost control of his car. The car traveled onto the expressway's median, struck a guardrail and was struck by a vehicle that was being driven by Christine Versailles. Ritzul sustained injuries of his neck and a shoulder.
Ritzul sued Versailles; the tractor-trailer's driver, Wojciech Kreciewski; and the tractor-trailer's owner, Consumer Product Services. Ritzul alleged that Versailles and Kreciewski were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles. Ritzul further alleged that Consumer Product Services was vicariously liable for Kreciewski's actions.
Versailles was dismissed via summary judgment. The remaining parties agreed to resolve the case via arbitration that was conducted by John DiBlasi, of National Arbitration and Mediation Inc.
Ritzul claimed that the accident was a result of Kreciewski's failure to control his rig. He contended that the rig jackknifed and crossed several lanes of traffic.
Defense counsel attempted to invoke the "emergency doctrine," which prevents the attachment of liability to motorists who reasonably and prudently respond to a sudden, unexpected emergency that necessitates a speedy reaction. Kreciewski contended that the accident was a result of a white box truck having suddenly veered across the path of his rig. He claimed that he reacted quickly and was able to avoid the truck, but that his rig jackknifed. However, Ritzul's counsel noted that Kreciewski told a responding police officer that a black car had crossed the rig's path. Plaintiff's counsel also noted that the accident was videotaped by a camera that was mounted in Ritzul's vehicle. The videotape depicted a white box truck ahead of the rig, but plaintiff's counsel contended that the truck was too far ahead to have caused an accident.
Ritzul sustained a tear of his left, nondominant shoulder's glenoid labrum and a herniation of his C5-6 intervertebral disc. He was placed in an ambulance, and he was transported to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Medical Center, in New Hyde Park. He underwent minor treatment.
Ritzul claimed that his herniated disc caused impingement of a spinal nerve. He also claimed that he developed residual spondylosis: osteoarthritis of a spinal joint. He contended that the condition affects his spine's C3-4 level. He underwent conservative treatment that included chiropractic manipulation and physical therapy, and he also underwent pain management that included the administration of epidural injections of steroid-based painkillers. He contended that the treatment did not resolve his pain.
On Dec. 17, 2009, Ritzul underwent arthroscopic surgery that addressed his left shoulder. The procedure included decompression of the shoulder's subacromial region and resection of the distal region of the shoulder's clavicle. On May 18, 2011, he underwent surgery that addressed his neck. The procedure included a discectomy, which involved the excision of the anterior portion of his herniated disc, and fusion of the corresponding level of his spine.
Ritzul contended that he suffers residual pain that necessitates his use of painkillers. He also contended that he suffers a residual diminution of his range of motion. He performed part-time work during the two years that followed the accident, but he eventually stopped working, claiming that his pain would not permit him to perform strenuous activities. He contended that his pre-accident annual earnings typically approximated $39,000.
Ritzul sought recovery of past medical expenses, past and future lost earnings, and damages for past and future pain and suffering. His wife sought recovery of damages for loss of consortium.
The defense's expert orthopedist agreed that Ritzul suffers a residual diminution of his range of motion, but he opined that Ritzul can perform work that does not involve lifting, pushing or pulling objects whose weight exceeds 25 pounds.
The parties negotiated a high/low stipulation: Damages could not exceed $1.2 million, but they had to equal or exceed $350,000.
DiBlasi found that the defendants were liable for the accident. He determined that the plaintiffs' damages totaled $950,000. DiBlasi did not provide a breakdown of the award.
This report is based on court documents and information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.