Matthew Vitucci Obtains Defense Verdict In United States District Court For The Southern District Of New York In Case Involving A Collision Between A Tractor Trailer And Plaintiff’s Sedan

June 6, 2024

On May 25, 2024, a federal court jury rendered a defense verdict following a week of trial concerning allegations that the defendant driver rear-ended plaintiff’s vehicle in a collision that occurred in the far left lane at the intersection of First avenue and 29th Street, Manhattan,  in the early morning hours of January 20, 2022. Plaintiff claimed to have been rendered unconscious by the collision, and later sought treatment from pain management specialists, chiropractic care and acupuncture. He later underwent surgeries to both shoulders claiming that the accident caused various tears to his shoulder tendons.

Plaintiff claimed in addition that he sustained herniations to his cervical and lumbosacral discs from the collision. He attended roughly 1000 visits to various medical professionals and claimed at trial that none of the treatment provided-including serial injections-afforded him any relief from his unrelenting pain. Plaintiff claimed at trial that the accident caused him to retire from his job as a driver for United Cerebral Palsy and further alleged that his disability required his wife to provide care for him as a paid homecare attendant. He alleged that he was rendered unable to perform his activities of daily living and that his wife had to perform these functions for him, including dressing him and providing for all his daily needs.

On cross examination Mr. Vitucci brought to the jury’s attention that plaintiff had suffered from a stroke two years prior to his retirement and in fact had attributed his retirement to the stroke in a letter signed by him and contained in his employment file. The letter was written two years prior to the subject accident.

After ruling on objections, the court admitted the letter into evidence as a prior inconsistent statement.

Mr. Vitucci further had admitted into evidence photographs which directly contradicted plaintiff’s testimony that the accident involved a rear-end collision. Over objection the court allowed testimony of the defendant driver that his view of the photographs-which he took at the scene of the accident-showed that there was only driver’s side damage including openings to the sheet metal of the driver’s side doors which could only have come from the rotary action of the truck tire’s lug nuts on the tractor’s driver’s side front tire.

Mr. Vitucci elicited testimony from the defendant driver that it was plaintiff who caused the contact by driving into the front right of the defendant’s tractor by trying to pass him from right to left. The testimony elicited was supported by the vehicle damage photographs which appeared to show a sideswipe event occurring from back to front on the driver’s side of plaintiff’s Toyota Camry.

It was ultimately argued that despite counsel’s contention that the matter involved a violent collision occasioned by a loaded tractor trailer weighing in excess of 26,000 pounds- that what really was in issue was a sideswipe impact caused by the negligent actions of the plaintiff.

The experts called by Mr. Vitucci supported this conclusion. Both medical experts opined-supported by their exams of plaintiff and their reading of MRI’s taken of the allegedly injured body parts that what was shown in the films and their exams was a typical presentation of degenerative body pathology that would be common for any 63 year old such as the plaintiff with no evidence of trauma being identified in their view.

Mr. Vitucci sharply questioned plaintiff’s medical experts with an eye to establishing that there was no need for the surgeries plaintiff underwent a month following the collision, and that in addition there was no evidence of causal relation of the accident to the claims of spinal issues and their after -effects. Defendant’s neurosurgeon instead pointed to the obvious prior conditions caused by his stroke. Both took issue with the idea that any of the plaintiff’s subjective complaints were in any way the result of the subject collision.

Plaintiff requested in summation that the jury award his client 1.25 million dollars for past and future pain and suffering and medical expense. After several hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants finding that the defendant driver was not negligent in the happening of the accident.