Florida Verdicts

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Plaintiff struck by drunken driver sustained multiple fractures

Amount:

$15,250,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Florida

Venue:

Pinellas County

Court:

Pinellas County Circuit Court, 6th

Injury Type(s):

hip-fracture, femoral neck;
leg-fracture (fracture, femur), leg (fracture, femur);
leg-fracture (fracture, tibia), leg (fracture, tibia);
leg-fracture (fracture, fibula), leg (fracture, fibula);
back-fracture (fracture, L5), back (fracture, L5);
back-fracture (fracture, T1), back (fracture, T1);
back-fracture (fracture, T2), back (fracture, T2);
back-fracture (fracture, T3), back (fracture, T3);
back-fracture (fracture, L5), vertebra (fracture, L5);
back-fracture (fracture, T1), vertebra (fracture, T1);
back-fracture (fracture, T2), vertebra (fracture, T2);
back-fracture (fracture, T3), vertebra (fracture, T3);
back-fracture (fracture, transverse process), vertebra (fracture, transverse process);
knee-fracture, tibial plateau;
neck-fracture (fracture, C7), neck (fracture, C7);
neck-fracture (fracture, C7), vertebra (fracture, C7);
neck-fracture (fracture, transverse process), vertebra (fracture, transverse process);
chest-hemothorax; chest-fracture, rib;
chest-fracture, sternum;
other-laceration; other-massage therapy; other-fracture, sacrum;
other-physical therapy; other-comminuted fracture; other-fracture, displaced;
other-fasciectomy/fasciotomy; pelvis-fracture (fracture, pubic ramus), pelvis (fracture, pubic ramus);
arterial/vascular-hemorrhage; surgeries/treatment-open reduction; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation; pulmonary/respiratory; pulmonary/respiratory-contusion, pulmonary;
gastrointestinal/digestive-liver (liver, laceration)

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle – Speeding, Center Line, Multiple Vehicle, Alcohol Involvement

Case Name:

Kathryn M. Knoth v. Youssef Belhadj,
No. 15-007806-CI

Date:

September 11, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Kathryn M. Knoth (Female, 40 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Heather N. Barnes;
The Yerrid Law Firm, P.A.;
Tampa,
FL,
for
Kathryn M. Knoth

Defendant(s):

Youssef Belhadj, 

Yassine Bouhamidi

Defense Attorney(s):

None reported;
for
Youssef Belhadj, Yassine Bouhamidi

Facts:

On July 19, 2015, plaintiff Kathryn Knoth, 40, a career counselor, was driving on northbound Gulf Boulevard, in Treasure Island, when her sport utility vehicle was struck by a rented convertible operated by Youssef Belhadj, who had lost control of his vehicle and crossed over into Knoth’s lane from a southbound lane. Knoth’s SUV then spun into a building on the northbound side of Gulf Boulevard. Knoth sustained injuries to her neck, back, ribs, sternum, lungs, liver, sacrum and pelvis. She also sustained injuries to a femur, a fibula, and both tibias. Belhadj and his passenger, Yassine Bouhamidi, who had jointly rented the convertible with Belhadj, were taken to a hospital with minor injuries following the crash. A blood-alcohol test administered at the hospital determined that Belhadj was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident. Knoth sued Belhadj, alleging that Belhadj was negligent in the operation of the rented vehicle. The lawsuit was later amended to include Bouhamidi as a defendant under a joint enterprise theory of liability. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Belhadj was driving 80 mph in a 35-mph zone on southbound Gulf Boulevard when he struck the curb, crossed the center line of the road and collided with Knoth’s vehicle. Counsel also contended that Belhadj was negligent for driving under the influence of alcohol, causing the crash. Belhadj and Bouhamidi did not respond to the lawsuit, and a default judgment was entered on liability. The matter then proceeded to a damages-only trial.

Injury:

Knoth sustained significant lower body injuries, namely a left, comminuted, intertrochanteric femoral neck fracture; a left, proximal femoral shaft fracture; bilateral sacral fractures; a bilateral, inferior pubic rami fracture; a left, superior pubic rami fracture; a left tibial plateau fracture; and right tibia and fibula fractures. She also sustained numerous additional fractures, including displaced fractures of the transverse processes of her C7 vertebra, and left T1, T2, T3 and L5 vertebrae. She also had bilateral first rib fractures and left second rib fractures. In addition, she suffered a comminuted mid-sternal fracture with a mediastinal hemorrhage. Her other injuries included a bilateral hemothorax, bilateral pulmonary contusions, and a grade I or II laceration of the liver. Knoth was removed from her vehicle via the Jaws of Life. She was then placed in an ambulance and transported to Bayfront Medical Center, in St. Petersburg, where she underwent three open reduction and internal fixation surgeries. The first surgery took place on July 20, 2015, the day after the accident. She underwent a compartment fasciotomy, which involved a division of the connective tissue of her left lower extremity, in order to repair her femur fractures. She underwent a second open reduction and internal fixation of the right tibial plateau and proximal fibula fractures on July 28, 2015. She then underwent the same surgery on her left tibial plateau fracture on July 30, 2015. Knoth remained in intensive care for 10 days before being transferred to the trauma floor. She was then discharged to an inpatient facility, where she underwent physical therapy until Aug. 14, 2015, at which point she was discharged home. However, she was still unable to bear weight until Oct. 20, 2015. Knoth ultimately required five months of physical therapy, which she received three times a week. She continues to undergo weekly massage therapy. Knoth claimed that she is no longer able to fully extend her left leg. She also claimed she cannot sit, stand or walk for long periods of time. She further claimed that she used to be an active person who enjoyed running, paddleboarding, and playing basketball and volleyball, but that she is no longer able to do those activities. In addition, she claimed she is unable to play soccer with her son, as she did before the crash. Knoth missed six months of work after the crash. Her prior job had involved giving students campus tours, but she was unable to perform that duty due to her injuries. As a result, when she was able to return to work, she had to get a desk job with a different company. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Knoth will require knee replacement surgeries as she gets older. Knoth sought recovery of $733,076.86 in past economic damages, which included past lost earnings and past medical expenses. She also sought recovery of $400,000 for future medical expenses. In addition, Knoth sought recovery of non-economic damages for her past and future pain and suffering, along with punitive damages against each defendant.

Result:

The jury determined that Knoth’s damages totaled $15.25 million. The award included $10 million in punitive damages.

Kathryn M. Knoth: $250,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $3,500,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering; $1,500,000 Personal Injury: past lost earnings and past and future medical expenses; $7,000,000 Personal Injury: punitive damages (Belhadj); $3,000,000 Personal Injury: punitive damages (Bouhamidi)

Trial Information:

Judge:

Amy Williams

Trial Length:

3
 hours

Trial Deliberations:

30
 minutes

Jury Vote:

6-0

Jury Composition:

5 male/ 1 female; 1 black/ 5 white

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Additional information was gleaned from court documents. The defendants were not represented by counsel and were not asked to contribute.