On May 12, 2016, a very brave Milwaukee County jury made their voices heard loud and clear when they awarded our client more than $7.25 million in damages. Our client, only 9 years old at the time of the injury, suffered a severe left-sided brachial plexus injury. At the time of trial, 12 years later, his left arm still looked like it had when he was 9 years old. He has had no sensation or feeling in the arm since the moment of the injury.
Our client had to go through 7 surgeries in the years following the injury. At one point, he asked the surgeon if he could just remove the left arm. The surgeon refused and eventually, they took a muscle out of the client’s leg and inserted into his arm in order to get some range of motion. At the time of trial, our client had endured 12 years of pain, suffering, disability and disfigurement.
The bike accident occurred in a rural county where my client’s father had taken him to train for bicycle racing. Both of our client’s parents were professional bicycle racers. Both of our client’s sisters, one younger and one older, are now professional bicycle racers, competing all over the world. At the time of the incident, our client had failed to stop for a stop sign, while making a right hand turn. The defendant was coming in the opposite direction in her pickup truck. Our client was adamant that he remained in his lane of travel, while the defendant claimed that our client took a wide turn, crossed the centerline, and collided with the defendant’s vehicle in the opposite lane of travel.
An 18 year-old independent witness supported the defendant’s version of what had happened, but he conceded at trial that he may have been under the influence of recreational drugs at the time. The police officer on the scene concluded that our client’s failure to stop at the stop sign was the cause of the collision, but he relied primarily on the statements from the defendant and independent witness. Importantly, the police officer took a statement from the defendant that revealed she had been traveling 10 miles per hour over the speed limit leading up to the accident, a fact she had denied in her testimony. The officer also noted property damage on the left front fender of her vehicle which she claimed had been there before and was not from the accident. At the trial, the defendant claimed there was no property damage before or after this collision.
Our client’s father and older sister were following him in a vehicle at the time of the collision. They both gave unfavorable written statements to the investigating officer, but the officer had basically told our client’s sister what to write and at the hospital after the crash, the officer would not let our client’s father see his injured son until he had provided a written statement. Their trial testimony was very consistent in that they could not see the centerline from their perspective so they couldn’t honestly offer testimony about whether the collision occurred in our client’s lane of travel or the defendant’s lane of travel.
The jury believed our client’s version of what happened that day. They found the defendant 60% at fault for causing the collision, our client 10% and our client’s father 30%. The parties stipulated to past medical bills of $258,000.00. The jury awarded $2 million dollars in past pain, suffering, disability and disfigurement, over the last 12 years, which is the exact amount we had asked them to award. We asked for $3 million in future pain, suffering, disability and disfigurement, but invited the jury to award more. They awarded $5 million. The total pain, suffering, disability and disfigurement, award to our client will be reduced by 10% for our client’s negligence.
At mediation we had demanded the defendant’s insurance policy limits of $1,250,000. We were told that the defendant’s insurance carrier, State Farm, may be willing to pay $15,000 and possibly a little more. We left the mediation and filed a formal offer of settlement for $750,000, well within the policy limits. There were no offers from State Farm before or during trial.
The case was tried in Milwaukee County in front of Judge John DiMotto, who did a wonderful job before, during and after the trial.