$900,000 Recovery – Motor Vehicle Negligence – Intersection Collision – Outrageous Conduct Warranting Punitive Damages – Drunk Driving – Hit and Run – Cervical and Lumbar Disc Injuries – Damages/Causation only

Luzerne County, PA

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant driver was intoxicated, with a blood alcohol level of .225, and pulled out in front of the plaintiff’s pick-up truck, thereby causing a collision. The defendant stipulated to negligence at the time of trial, and the case proceeded on the issues of damages and causation only. The tree service company – which employed the defendant driver – was also named as a defendant in the case on a vicarious liability theory, and the allegation of negligent entrustment of a corporate truck to the defendant driver.

On Tuesday November 3, 2009, at approximately 8:30 PM, the plaintiff and his wife were on their way home. The plaintiff, a man in his early 40s at the time, was driving a pick-up truck southbound on Cherry Street (Route 3035) in Montrose, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. The defendant had been at work and was driving a company-owned truck, The defendant turned onto Cherry Street into the plaintiff’s lane of travel and violently collided with the side of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant had drank more than 12 to 15 beers before the collision and had a blood alcohol level of .225 at the time of impact.

The defendant driver fled the scene, but was eventually apprehended by Montrose police. When the police officer pulled the defendant over, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant could not stand due to his high level of intoxication at the time.

The court determined that the defendant driver was in the course and scope of his employment with the defendant corporation at the time of the collision. The plaintiff claimed that the corporate defendant knew – or should have known – that the defendant driver was intoxicated at the time it allowed him access and control of the vehicle is owned. The plaintiff also asserted that the corporate defendant should have known that the defendant driver had a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse, such that there was a reasonable likelihood that he would operate the corporate vehicle at a time when he was intoxicated.

The plaintiff was transported to the emergency room following the accident where he was diagnosed with cervical and lumbosacral nerve root injury at the C6-C7 and L5-S1 levels. MRI films revealed disc bulging and protrusions at the L2-L3 and L3-L4 and L4-L5 levels with evidence of foraminal narrowing, according to evidence offered by the plaintiff. Cervical MRIs also showed disc protrusions at C3-C4 and C6-C7 with cervical spondylosis and straightening of the cervical spine.

The Plaintiff’s doctors causally related the plaintiff’s neck and back conditions to the subject accident.