Patrick Cooney Tried A Case To Verdict Over The Course Of Two Weeks In The Superior Court Of New Jersey, Monmouth County, Before Judge David Nitti

March 26, 2024

The plaintiff, a 25 year old female was a passenger in a vehicle driven by codefendant which was driven into the left rear of an 80K lb dump truck owed by HC Trucking and operated by its employee. The accident occurred at 11:45 p.m. on the southbound Garden State Parkway in Monmouth County NJ.  The occupants of the SUV were returning from a “club” in Hazlet NJ when the operator of the SUV struck the left rear of the dump truck at an estimated 75 m.p.h. The accident happened at the start of a construction zone where the far right lane was being shut down by a tapering, reflective cone line. Signs were posted at least a mile before the construction zone directing a left merge and reducing the speed limit to 45 m.p.h.

Plaintiff alleged that based on a statement provided by the driver of the SUV following the accident and other physical evidence, that the dump truck didn’t see the SUV and changed lanes causing the accident. The defense countered that the SUV was speeding, following to closely, and that the dump truck was not changing lanes when the accident happened.  Defendants maintained the SUV closed on the dump truck at a high rate of speed and failed to complete a left hand swerve to avoid the accident. The defense position was supported by expert testimony from an accident reconstructionist. Th expert had to concede that the damage to both vehicle would have been the same under either version.

At the scene, the SUV operator was observed with slurred speech, bloodshot,  watery eyes and an odor of alcohol from his breath. A blood draw taken 2 hours after the accident indicated the driver’s BAC was .057. The defense expert toxicologist was permitted to testify to the physiological changes a driver experiences at .057 which included reduced inhibition and reaction time, sedation and reduced judgment. As a side note, criminal charges against the SUV driver were reduced to a DWI plea. However, defense counsel was precluded from using the plea at the subsequent civil trial per New Jersey’s “Civil Reservation “ statute.

The plaintiff sustained a traumatic amputation of her dominant right arm just below the shoulder; multiple right rib fractures with a resulting pneumothorax; fractures of the left thumb, left mid radial and ulnar shafts, all of which required ORIF. She also sustained multiple fractured and an injury to her right breast necessitating reconstructive surgery and extensive facial scarring. Due to her young age she also underwent multiple surgeries including revascularization of the right arm using a left thigh vein graft  and skin grafting to repair scaring.

Prior to the trial, Patrick negotiated a “Hi-Lo” agreement with plaintiff’s counsel with a 400K low and a 1M high. Any amount in between the high and low would be calculated by multiplying the plaintiff’s total damages by our client’s percentage of liability.

Following a 2 hour deliberation, the jury found the SUV driver to be 95% negligent and the owner and operator of the dump truck to be 5%. The jury awarded $7,500,000.00 in total damages. If the “Hi-Lo” had not been entered into, Patrick’s clients share of the total damages would have  only been 375K.  Plaintiff’s declined an overture of a 500K offer to settle out during the trial.