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Suit: Truck driver was reckless in entering intersection

Amount:

$10,988,793.11

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Ohio

Venue:

Franklin County

Court:

Franklin County, Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

back-stenosis; back-lower back; back-spondylosis; back-herniated disc; neck; neck-stenosis; neck-spondylosis; neck-herniated disc; neck-fusion, cervical; elbow; other-hematoma; other-loss of consortium; other-resultant radiculopathy; shoulder; surgeries/treatment-decompression surgery

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle - Rollover, Intersection, Tractor-Trailer, Multiple Vehicle

Case Name:

Douglas Dyer and Brenda Dyer v. Debra Roberts and Schwan's Home Service, Inc., No. 09CVC-12-18581

Date:

June 2, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Brenda Dyer (Female, 50s), 

Douglas Dyer (Male, 52 Years), 

Active USA LLC (intervenor)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Michael J. Leizerman; E.J. Leizerman & Associates LLC; Toledo, OH, for Brenda Dyer, Douglas Dyer ■ Scott E. Smith; Scott Elliot Smith LPA; Columbus, OH, for Brenda Dyer, Douglas Dyer ■ William R. Thomas; Thomas & Company, LPA; Delaware, OH, for Active USA LLC (intervenor)

Defendant(s):

Debra Roberts, 

Schwan's Home Service Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Michael J. Valentine; Reminger & Reminger; Columbus, OH, for Debra Roberts, Schwan's Home Service Inc. ■ Melvin J. Davis; Reminger & Reminger; Columbus, OH, for Debra Roberts, Schwan's Home Service Inc.

Facts:

On Dec. 17, 2007, plaintiff Douglas Dyer, 52, an over-the-road truck driver, was operating a 2008 GMC 7500 white tractor. He was heading southbound on State Route 68, hauling two tractors as cargo, known as "piggybacking." As Dyer approached the intersection with Route 274 at approximately 7:40 p.m., Debra Roberts, who was operating a 2003 GMC C5500 yellow commercial freezer truck, allegedly entered the intersection across the northbound lane of Route 68 and entered the southbound lane of Route 68. Dyer took emergency evasive action by veering to the right. In doing so, he went off the road. The tractor he was driving struck a telephone pole and stop sign before overturning. Prior to the accident, Roberts had been heading westbound on State Route 274. She had reportedly stopped for a stop sign prior to entering the intersection. The truck she was driving was owned by Schwan's Home Service, Inc. The intersection is located in a rural part of northwest Ohio with no street lights, or business or residential lights illuminating the area. At the time, the roadway was wet due to some intermittent snow and ice. Dyer claimed neck, right elbow, lower back and left shoulder injuries as a result of the accident. Dyer sued Roberts and Schwan's Home Service. He alleged that Roberts was negligent and reckless in the operation of the truck. Dyer further argued that Schwan negligently entrusted its vehicle to Roberts and was vicariously liable for Roberts' actions, as well as spoliation. Active USA, LLC, Dyer's self-insured employer, was an intervening plaintiff in the case, but was dismissed before trial. Dyer alleged that Roberts failed to keep a proper lookout and yield the right-of-way prior to entering the intersection. Dyer also argued that Roberts was inexperienced and incompetent, and should not have been entrusted with Schwan's vehicle. Dyer further alleged spoliation of evidence against Schwan's. According to Dyer, Schwan's willfully destroyed evidence without first permitting plaintiff's counsel an opportunity to have the vehicle inspected. The defense denied liability. The defense contended that Dyer was mistaken in believing that Roberts had entered the intersection and Dyer was solely responsible for the accident.

Injury:

Dyer was transported from the scene by ambulance and was taken to a local emergency room. He presented with complaints of neck, right elbow, lower back and left shoulder pain. An MRI at the emergency room revealed degenerative changes in the cervical spine, which Dyer claimed were previously asymptomatic. On July 17, 2008, Dyer underwent cervical disc fusion at C5, C6 and C7 due to herniations, chronic cervicalgia, right-sided cervical radiculopathy and cervical spondylosis with neural foraminal impingement. Post-operative rehabilitation and continued therapy were unsuccessful. In July 2014, Dyer was diagnosed with severe stenosis from C3 to C5, which was worse at C3-4, with the spinal cord becoming flattened. As a result, a second surgery was performed on Feb. 16, 2015, which included removal of a posterior vertebral body cervical fusion at C3-4 and C4-5. A third operation was performed on Feb. 27, 2015, to relieve a hematoma that was pressing against the esophagus. On Aug. 15, 2015, Dyer presented to a medical clinic with leg weakness and coordination issues, with rapid progression over the previous 24-48 hours. Diagnostic testing revealed that a free-floating portion of his spine was compressing on the spinal cord. Emergent surgery was required and took place on Aug. 18, 2015. Since the date of the accident, Dyer claimed he had only been able to work as a truck driver from Oct. 13, 2013 through Dec. 3, 2014, earning approximately $62,000 a year. Dyer underwent functional capacity evaluation and vocational rehabilitation testing at the request of the defense, wherein it was undisputed that he could not return to work as a truck driver and was relegated to either a sedentary position or that of a cashier if appropriately trained and the job market was available for this position. Dyer claimed $221,561.45 in past medical expenses, $12,402.70 in health and welfare payments, $226,984.11 in past compensation benefits and $774.238.73 in future indemnity benefits, in addition to future medical benefits and past and future pain and suffering. Dyer's wife, Brenda Dyer, claimed loss of consortium, including nursing services.

Result:

The jury found that Roberts was negligent in operating Schwan's truck and that her negligence was a direct and proximate cause of Dyer's injuries. The jury attributed 100-percent liability to Roberts and also determined that Dyer suffered a permanent and substantial physical deformity as a result of Roberts' negligence. The jury awarded $10,988,793.11, including $750,000 in loss of consortium damages to Dyer's wife. Judgment was entered against both defendants.

Brenda Dyer: $750,000 Personal Injury: loss of consortium; Douglas Dyer: $197,526 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $627,571 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $163,696 Personal Injury: Future Lost Earnings Capability; $2,500,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $3,750,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering; $1,000,000 Personal Injury: past mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life; $2,000,000 Personal Injury: future mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life

Trial Information:

Judge:

Stephen L. McIntosh

Demand:

$1,425,000

Offer:

$270,000

Trial Length:

2  weeks

Trial Deliberations:

2  hours

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute to the report.