Facts/Liability: Claimant, a 45 year old truck driver hauling US Postal mail, via tractor trailer, was proceeding westerly along Route 101 during the dark evening hours. Route 101 in the area is divided by a broad slop and grassy area without barrier. As the plaintiff was proceeding westerly at the speed limit, the defendant, a NH State trooper, proceeding in the opposite direction at a rate in excess of 100 mph, lost control in his eastbound lanes of travel, causing his vehicle to careen across the broad grassy median, entering the westbound lanes of travel, crashing into the plaintiff’s cab of his tractor-trailer truck in the right breakdown lane, causing catastrophic property damage and remarkably non-life threatening injuries to both the trooper and the truck driver. The trooper, a K9 officer, evidently was interested in utilizing his canine for a potential police activity, 20 miles away from his location and was proceeding to that non-emergency call at a high rate of speed, placing citizens along the roadway in grave danger due to the claimed deliberate indifference of the trooper that would shock the conscious of a jury thereby potentially creating civil rights violation claims in addition to, common law negligence claims. Common law negligence claims are capped a damage level of $550,000, pursuant to NH statute. 42USC1983 actions are not capped.
Defense: The State asserted defenses of legal police pursuit, legal emergency action, negligence on the part of the truck driver, and other usual defenses.
Injuries: The truck driver was able to leave the scene by private vehicle. He subsequently was treated for both physical and emotional injuries, including impingement to both the right and left shoulders, and rotator cuff injuries that required surgeries over following two years, ankle sprain requiring a soft cast, back pain which resolved over the following year and ptsd, which gave rise to psychological counseling and continued anxiety.
Specials (if any): $210,000 in medical bills (covered by comp), nominal future medical bills, $9,000 lost earnings.
Verdict/Settlement: Settlement at mediation for $400,000 with the workers’ compensation carrier waiving their subrogation lien.
Points of Interest: Many, but not all, of the plaintiff’s Sec. 1983 claims were dismissed following discovery. Additionally, the claimant had low back surgery when a fistula was uncovered 2 years post accident. A fistula, generally in the nature of a congenital condition, may also be traumatically caused. The fistula procedure bills, that were contested by worker’s compensation and the liability carrier as being unrelated, were covered by health insurance. If the parties had not settled and the plaintiff was able to causally relate the fistula surgery, then special would increase by another $200,000, creating a liability on the workers’ compensation carrier rather than the health insurance carrier, thereby increasing the workers’ compensation lien substantially while the $550,000 State negligence liability cap would remain. That status motivated all of the parties to resolve this case in a fashion where the workers’ compensation lien was simply waived but also not increased with the fistula procedure bills.