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Pedestrian hit by truck mirror suffered brain damage: lawsuit

Amount:

$30,185,488.89

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Florida

Venue:

Hillsborough County

Court:

Hillsborough County Circuit Court, 13th

Injury Type(s):

head; head-headaches; head-concussion; head-closed head injury; brain-brain damage; brain-traumatic brain injury; other-seizure; other-unconsciousness; urological-incontinence; neurological-neurological impairment; mental/psychological-cognition (memory, impairment), impairment(memory, impairment)
; mental/psychological-concentration, impairment

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle – Pedestrian, Hit and Run

Case Name:

Stephanie Ming v. Gerelco Traffic Controls, Inc., a Florida corporation,
No. 14-CA-011138

Date:

December 15, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Stephanie Ming (Female, 47 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Robert D. Sparks;
Givens Givens Sparks, PLLC;
Tampa,
FL,
for
Stephanie Ming ■ Christopher D. Codling;
Givens Givens Sparks, PLLC;
Tampa,
FL,
for
Stephanie Ming

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Walter Afield; M.D.; Neuropsychiatry; Tampa,
FL called by:
Robert D. Sparks, Christopher D. Codling

Defendant(s):

Gerelco Traffic Controls Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Jeffrey M. Katz;
Dalan, Katz & Siegel, P.L.;
Clearwater,
FL,
for
Gerelco Traffic Controls Inc. ■ Michael D. Siegel;
Dalan, Katz & Siegel, P.L.;
Clearwater,
FL,
for
Gerelco Traffic Controls Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

Alex Rodriguez;
Psychiatry;
Tampa,
FL called by:
Jeffrey M. Katz, Michael D. Siegel ■ Rodney Vanderploeg;
Neuropsychology;
Tampa,
FL called by:
Jeffrey M. Katz, Michael D. Siegel ■ Michael Shahnasarian;
Life Care Planning;
Tampa,
FL called by:
Jeffrey M. Katz, Michael D. Siegel

Insurer(s):

Amerisure Insurance Co.

Facts:

On Dec. 24, 2011, plaintiff Stephanie Ming, a 47-year-old unemployed woman, was walking north in a grassy area along the outside lane of U.S. Route 41 (South 50th Street, also known as South Tamiami Trail), in Tampa. When she was near the intersection with State Route 676 (Causeway Boulevard), Ming was struck on the back of the head by the passenger side mirror of a truck that was northbound on US-41. Ming claimed she suffered a brain injury. The truck left the scene of the accident, and the driver was not initially identified. However, a passerby wrote down the tag number on the truck, which was then identified as belonging to Gerelco Traffic Controls Inc. Ming sued Gerelco Traffic Controls, alleging that the truck driver was negligent in the operation of the vehicle and that Gerelco was vicariously liable for the driver’s actions. The driver was eventually identified as Thomas Cox, a superintendent for Gerelco. However, by the time he was identified, the statute of limitations to pursue legal action against him had expired. So Ming could only pursue her claim against Gerelco. Ming’s counsel contended that Cox crossed over the line separating the road from the shoulder area where Ming was walking. Counsel also planned to argue that Cox would not have fled the scene unless he had acted negligently. Defense counsel initially asserted that since the Gerelco office was closed on Christmas Eve, Cox must have taken the truck without the company’s permission. However, Gerelco conceded liability prior to trial, so the trial solely addressed legal causation for Ming’s injuries and damages.

Injury:

Ming was placed in an ambulance, and she was transported to Tampa General Hospital, in Tampa. Ming had briefly lost consciousness following the accident, but she was awake and sitting up by the time the ambulance came to the scene. The hospital performed CT scans and X-rays, but did not find any bleeding or swelling of the brain. Ming ultimately received seven staples for a laceration on the back of her head and was released. Ming was suffering from mental health issues at the time of the accident and spent the next few months treating that condition. Her mental health issues eventually stabilized around nine months after the incident, but she claimed she was still suffering from headaches, seizure-like activity, memory loss, blackouts, confusion, and disorientation. Doctors then began to question if the accident was causing the alleged ongoing issues. After additional examination and treatment for the ongoing symptoms, Ming was diagnosed with a post-traumatic head injury related to the accident. Ming claimed that her symptoms continued to deteriorate in the ensuing years and that she also began to suffer from incontinence approximately three years after the accident. As part of the treatment for her post-traumatic head injury, Ming started taking multiple medications, including anti-seizure drugs and Adderall to improve her concentration. She also began seeing a neuropsychiatrist and other medical providers to monitor her medications and the alleged changes in her brain. Ming additionally goes to an adult activity center during the day to allegedly help improve her memory and her ability to retain and understand information. Ming claimed that she continues to have seizure-like activity despite the medications. She also claimed that she requires assistance with daily activities, such as dressing herself, bathing, and preparing meals. Ming additionally claimed that she continues to have problems with concentration and memory. After the accident, her daughter quit her job and relocated to Florida to be Ming’s around-the-clock caregiver. Ming’s treating neuropsychiatrist testified that Ming’s condition would get worse as she grew older and that Ming would likely end up with early-onset dementia or Parkinson’s disease. Thus, Ming sought recovery of $28,168.05 in past medical expenses, $5,157,320.84 in future medical expenses, $6 million in damages for past pain and suffering, and $23 million in damages for future pain and suffering. Defense counsel presented an expert neuropsychologist and an expert psychiatrist who disputed the cause of Ming’s injuries. The neuropsychologist opined that Ming’s condition was the result of her premature birth or a lack of brain development that resulted in mental retardation. The psychiatrist agreed that the brain damage was the result of prematurity or mental retardation, and opined that Ming’s symptoms resulted from the various medications she was taking to treat her mental health disorder. However, Ming’s counsel disputed the defense’s allegation that Ming was mentally retarded. Defense counsel also produced an expert clinical psychologist who served as their life care and vocational rehabilitation planner. He maintained that Ming’s condition was the result of her mental illness and that Ming did not need a life care plan. Defense counsel argued that Ming did not suffer a permanent injury and that Ming only suffered a head laceration. Counsel also argued that if Ming did have a traumatic brain injury, it was just a mild concussion that would have resolved within a few months. Thus, defense counsel argued that if the jury found that Ming did have a permanent injury, Ming should only receive $750,000 for her medical care and $750,000 for her pain and suffering.

Result:

The jury determined that Cox’s negligence, for which Gerelco was admittedly responsible, was the legal cause of Ming’s injuries, and that those injuries were permanent. The jury also found that Ming’s damages totaled $30,185,488.89. Editor’s note: The jury made a mathematical error on the verdict sheet when adding up the total award. While the jury wrote that the total award was $30,185,488.84, the sum was actually $30,185,488.89.

Stephanie Ming: $28,168 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $5,157,321 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $6,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $19,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering

Trial Information:

Judge:

Elizabeth G. Rice

Demand:

$8 million

Offer:

$65,000

Trial Length:

5
 days

Trial Deliberations:

2
 hours

Jury Vote:

6-0

Jury Composition:

2 male/ 4 female; 1 black/ 2 Hispanic/ 3 white

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was gleaned from court documents and an interview of plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.