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Packed limo ride caused burn to knee, passenger contended
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
leg; leg-scar and/or disfigurement, leg; knee; burns-third degree; other-necrosis; epidermis-bedsore/decubitus ulcer/pressure sore; surgeries/treatment-skin graft; surgeries/treatment-debridement; mental/psychological-emotional distress
Motor Vehicle - Passenger, Single Vehicle, Dangerous Condition, Common Carrier Liability
Matthew T. Deivert v. Pittsburgh Chauffer LLC, No. GD-15-019904
May 11, 2017
Matthew T. Deivert (Male, 25 Years)
Richard G. Talarico; Woomer & Talarico LLC; Pittsburgh, PA, for Matthew T. Deivert
Pittsburgh Chauffer LLC
Kathleen S. McAllister; DiBella Geer McAllister Best, PC; Pittsburgh, PA, for Pittsburgh Chauffer LLC
National Indemnity Co.
On Feb. 2, 2014, at around 2 a.m., plaintiff Matthew Deivert, 25, a manager at a grocery store, was a passenger in a limousine in Pittsburgh. He was among a group of 15 people in the limo, which was taking them around to night clubs. During the approximately 25-minute ride, Deivert's right leg rubbed up against a fellow passenger's leg, causing pressure and friction. He claimed that he suffered a third-degree burn and cellulitis to his leg. Deivert sued Pittsburgh Chauffer LLC, alleging that the company was negligent for creating a dangerous situation. Specifically, he asserted that the driver allowed more passengers in the limo than the maximum occupancy of 12. Counsel argued that the driver, by doing so, breached the legal duty to load and transport passengers safely. According to Pittsburgh Chauffer, there were members of Deivert's party who were not willing to wait for the limo to return for them and take them in a second trip. As a result, there were more people trying to get into the limousine than it could carry. The driver asked persons in the group to wait and told people to get out. The company owner had a conversation with the driver and also had direct conversations with people in the group. The owner told them that the limo would make two trips to transport the party. Nevertheless, several people pushed into the limousine and would not get out. The company faulted Deivert for his injuries, since he remained in the limo knowing that the passengers exceeded maximum capacity.
On Feb. 6, Deivert presented to an emergency room with complaints of pain to his right lateral knee. He was diagnosed with a third-degree burn, given topical ointments, and discharged. On Feb. 10, he presented to a hospital's burn center for further evaluation of the burn, which was 8 centimeters by 8 centimeters. On Feb. 19, Deivert underwent debridement and surgery, in which a cadaveric allograft of 70-square centimeters was placed over the necrotic area of his leg. He continued to follow up regularly at the burn unit and apply ointment. On March 4, a split-thickness skin graft was performed. In the ensuing weeks, he continued to treat with topical moisturizer, and by April the graft site had completely healed. No further treatment was administered. Deivert's expert in orthopedic surgery testified that he had sustained either a direct friction or pressure sore that resulted in a third-degree burn or necrotic dermis that required surgical intervention. The physician stated that Deivert had obvious scarring which he will have for the rest of his life. Deivert, who showed the scar to the jury, testified that he continues to be embarrassed by the scar. Individuals who were in the limo with Deivert described it, when they first saw the burn after it had occurred, as the most "gruesome" thing they had seen. Deivert said that he is self-conscious about the burn, especially when he is intimate with someone. He sought damages for past and future pain and suffering. Pittsburgh Chauffer's expert in physical medicine disputed that Deivert received the burn from the limo ride. According to the expert, while friction can cause skin abrasions, it is unusual for a friction wound to extend to a full-thickness skin ulcer. A necrotic skin injury within one day of a friction-type injury is even more unusual, the expert stated. The doctor opined that he could not conceive of friction causing a rapidly necrotic wound, without an obvious source of infection, significant thermal injury (e.g., cold or heat) or direct toxin exposure (e.g., a spider bite).
The jury found that Pittsburgh Chauffer's conduct fell below the standard of care, which was a factual cause of harm to Deivert, who was found not negligent. He was determined to receive $500,000.
Alan D. Hertzberg
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.