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Parties disputed whether plaintiff had seat belt on

Amount:

$12,663,107

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Florida

Venue:

Escambia County

Court:

Escambia County Circuit Court, 1st

Injury Type(s):

arm; eye-loss of; head-concussion; head-TMJ/temporomandibular joint; knee; knee-fracture, tibial plateau;
chest-chest flail; chest-fracture, rib;
elbow; elbow-fracture (fracture, olecranon);
other-plate; other-prosthesis; other-pins/rods/screws; other-loss of consortium; shoulder-fracture (fracture, clavicle);
epidermis; epidermis-degloving; face/nose-fracture, jaw;
face/nose-fracture, nose;
face/nose-facial laceration; face/nose-fracture (fracture, orbit);
neurological-nerve damage/neuropathy (nerve damage, ulnar nerve); surgeries/treatment-open reduction; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation; pulmonary/respiratory-pneumothorax

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle – Head-On, Intersection

Case Name:

Jerry M. Hendrix and Verna Marie Hendrix v. Justin Daniel Wise, Burford’s Tree, Inc., Global Rental Company, Inc., and Altec Industries, Inc.,
No. 2011-CA-000829

Date:

May 23, 2014

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Jerry M. Hendrix (Male, 53 Years), 

Verna Marie Hendrix (Female)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Troy A. Rafferty;
Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A.;
Pensacola,
FL,
for
Jerry M. Hendrix, Verna Marie Hendrix ■ Aaron L. Watson;
Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A.;
Pensacola,
FL,
for
Jerry M. Hendrix, Verna Marie Hendrix ■ Frederic G. Levin;
Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A.;
Pensacola,
FL,
for
Jerry M. Hendrix, Verna Marie Hendrix

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Donna Schwartz-Watts;
M.D.;
Psychiatry;
Columbia,
SC called by
Troy A. Rafferty, Aaron L. Watson, Frederic G. Levin ■ Shane Vervoort;
M.D.;
Physical Medicine;
Pensacola,
FL called by
Troy A. Rafferty, Aaron L. Watson, Frederic G. Levin ■ Leslie Gillespie;

Vocational Rehabilitation;
Pensacola,
FL called by
Troy A. Rafferty, Aaron L. Watson, Frederic G. Levin ■ Marius Ziejewski;
Ph.D.;
Accident Investigation & Reconstruction/ Failure Analysis/Product Liability;
Fargo,
ND called by
Troy A. Rafferty, Aaron L. Watson, Frederic G. Levin ■ Frederick Raffa;
Ph.D;
Economics;
North Palm Beach,
FL called by
Troy A. Rafferty, Aaron L. Watson, Frederic G. Levin

Defendant(s):

Justin Daniel Wise, 

Burford’s Tree Inc., 

Altec Industries Inc., 

Global Rental Co. Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Millard Lane Fretland;
Conroy Simberg Gannon Krevans & Abel P A;
Pensacola,
FL,
for
Burford’s Tree Inc., Altec Industries Inc., Global Rental Co. Inc. ■ Jeffrey L. Luther;
Luther Collier Hodges & Cash LLP;
Mobile,
AL,
for
Justin Daniel Wise

Defendant Expert(s):

Daniel Melcher;
Accident Investigation & Reconstruction/ Failure Analysis/Product Liability;
Evanston,
IL called by
Millard Lane Fretland, Jeffrey L. Luther ■ Wilson Hayes;
Biomechanics;
Corvallis,
OR called by
Millard Lane Fretland, Jeffrey L. Luther

Facts:

On Feb. 23, 2011, plaintiff Jerry Hendrix, 53, a construction worker, was driving his 1997 Jeep Wrangler northbound on Old Palafox Highway at the intersection with Ten Mile Road in Pensacola when he became involved in a motor vehicle collision. As Hendrix crossed the intersection, a boom truck being driven by Justin Wise southbound on Old Palafox turned left into the intersection, causing a head-on-collision. Hendrix sustained multiple injuries. Hendrix sued Wise, claiming he was negligent in the operation of his vehicle by violating his right-of-way. Hendrix also sued the owner of the vehicle, Burford’s Tree Inc., claiming it was vicariously liable because Wise was engaged in the scope of his employment at the time. Hendrix also sued a previous owner of Wise’s vehicle, Global Rental Co. Inc., as well as the company that purchased Wise’s vehicle from Global Rental and leased it to Burford’s Tree, Altec Industries Inc. Wise conceded liability. Global Rental and Altec Industries were dismissed from the case before trial. The parties disputed whether Hendrix was wearing his seat belt at the time of the collision. Hendrix testified that he always wore his seat belt but could not remember specifically if he wore it on the day of the accident due to memory loss. The plaintiffs’ accident reconstruction expert testified that Hendrix’s injuries would have been sustained with or without his wearing a seat belt due to the intrusion of his vehicle’s hood into the Jeep’s cabin upon impact. He testified that upon impact, the hood buckled and formed a V shape, which crashed through the Jeep’s windshield and struck Hendrix. The defendants claimed Hendrix was comparatively negligent for his injuries because he was not wearing his seat belt. The defense’s accident reconstruction expert testified that it was clear that Hendrix’s seat did not move, and that if he was belted into the seat he would not have gone up over the vehicle’s discharged airbag and into the top left-hand corner of the windshield. He further testified that had Hendrix been belted, he wouldn’t have struck the point of the Jeep’s hood intrusion.

Injury:

Hendrix was taken by ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital. His right eye was damaged such that he lost the sight in it. He also sustained orbital, nose and jaw fractures; facial lacerations; and degloving of facial skin epidermis. Hendrix also sustained a concussion, an olecranon fracture of the elbow in his non-dominant left arm, ulnar nerve damage in his left arm, a left clavicle fracture, multiple rib fractures, and a tibial plateau fracture of his right knee. He remained in the hospital for 52 days. Hendrix’s right eye was removed and he had an ocular prosthesis placed. He underwent open reduction/internal fixation with a plate and screws attached to address the olecranon fracture. Hendrix also underwent ORIF with a plate and screws attached to address the tibial plateau fracture. To address the left clavicle fracture, he also had ORIF with a plate and screws attached. Hendrix’s vocational rehabilitation expert testified that Hendrix would never be able to work again. Hendrix sought to recover damages for past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and past and future pain and suffering. His wife, Verna Marie Hendrix, joined the action on a consortium claim. Hendrix’s counsel suggested the jury award $23 million in damages. Defense counsel argued that 99 percent of Hendrix’s injuries would have been prevented had he been wearing a seat belt. Counsel argued that $1.7 million should be awarded for Hendrix’s economic damages, and no more than $1.7 million for non-economic damages.

Result:

The jury found Wise 85 percent negligent and Hendrix 15 percent negligent. It determined that Hendrix’s damages totaled $12,663,107. Because of comparative negligence, the net award was $10,763,641.

Jerry M. Hendrix: $2,213,107 Personal Injury: past and future lost earnings and medicals; $10,000,000 Personal Injury: past and future pain and suffering; Verna Marie Hendrix: $450,000 Personal Injury: loss of consortium

Actual Award:

$10,763,641

Trial Information:

Judge:

Ed Nickinson

Trial Length:

7
 days

Trial Deliberations:

6
 hours

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs’ and defense counsel.