Alecia Walters-Hinds and Adam Schwartzstein Obtained A Defense Verdict in Bronx County

New York partners Alecia Walters-Hinds and Adam Schwartzstein obtained a defense verdict in a trucking litigation matter venued in the Bronx County Supreme Court in Bronx, New York.

The subject accident occurred between our client’s tractor trailer and a co-defendant vehicle. The plaintiff, a 26-year-old certified registered nurse, was a rear seat passenger in the co-defendant’s vehicle. The operator of the co-defendant’s vehicle lost control of his vehicle and ultimately crossed three lanes of travel into the tractor trailer’s lane and the collision occurred.

New York’s Joint and Several Liability Law was applicable to this matter. The co-defendant had minimal policy limits. Under New York law, if the plaintiff was able to prove at trial one percent or more liability upon the operator of the tractor trailer, then the defendant tractor trailer would be responsible for any jury verdict in excess of the co-defendant’s policy limits.

The plaintiff’s strategy throughout the course of this litigation was to establish one percent liability against the tractor trailer in the plaintiff-favorable Bronx County Supreme Court venue. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the tractor trailer was operated at an unsafe speed and had sufficient time to take evasive maneuvers to avoid the impact with the co-defendant's vehicle. The plaintiff testified at both her deposition and at trial that the co-defendant vehicle was stopped for a period of 10 seconds on the road before impact. The plaintiff relied upon an accident reconstruction expert to support her trial testimony and theory of liability.

We argued under the emergency situation doctrine that the tractor trailer driver was not negligent. Our client’s driver was faced with a sudden emergency which could not have been reasonably anticipated. As a result, he did not have an opportunity to avoid the accident and act reasonably prudent under the circumstances. The driver testified at trial that the co-defendant vehicle crossed in front of his lane and never stopped. Our request for the emergency doctrine charge was granted by the trial judge over the plaintiff’s strenuous objection.

In support of our defense arguments, a liability reconstruction expert was called to testify. Our expert was able to establish points of impact between the vehicles and performed time/distance/reaction analysis. The expert testified it was impossible for the co-defendant’s vehicle to have stopped for 10 seconds (as testified by the plaintiff) and that the final resting position of the co-defendant’s vehicle on the road could only have occurred if the co-defendant’s vehicle had been moving at the time of impact.

The injuries sustained in this matter included severe fractures to the right leg which required surgery and multiple tears and fractures in the right knee which required surgery. The plaintiff’s surgeon testified at trial and opined that the plaintiff would need two complete knee replacement surgeries in the future.

Prior to trial, the matter was mediated without a settlement. A high/low proposal was offered to the plaintiff and was rejected. During closing arguments, the plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award $1,750,000 in monetary damages. The settlement demand remained at seven figures throughout trial.

After a two week trial, the jury issued a unanimous defense verdict for the insured and found the co-defendant 100 percent at fault for the cause of the accident. We were able to prove that the insured was not even one percent at fault for the cause of this accident or plaintiff’s injuries. The damages awarded to the plaintiff by the jury were apportionable to the co-defendant.

The favorable outcome in the plaintiff-friendly venue of Bronx County was obtained through vigorous preparation for trial and the retention of the proper experts. By carefully selecting the best experts, prepping them for trial, and working closely with them at trial with the proper demonstrative evidence, we were able to get a defense verdictin a case where plaintiff only needed to establish one percent liability against our client, with the potential for a seven-figure verdict. This strategy enabled us to provide the jury with evidence and testimony to support a finding of no liability.

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