A jury awards $55 million to a woman who lost her legs in an interstate accident

A jury awards $55 million to a woman who lost her legs in an interstate accident

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A New Jersey jury has awarded $55 million to a woman who had both of her legs amputated after she was hit by an 18-wheeler.
After a two-week trial before Superior Court Judge Thomas Fina, the ruling was entered on April 11 against Alert Motor Freight and Jersey City Transport, two trucking-related companies in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, and the estate of truck driver Paul DePass of Belleville, New Jersey. Jersey. Lawyers in the case said Debas died of cancer three years after the accident.

The lead defense lawyer said he expected the defendants to appeal the ruling.
The two trucking company defendants have $1 million in insurance coverage from Prime Insurance of Sandy, Utah, but attorneys for the plaintiffs said they intend to file a bad faith claim in the case after that company repeatedly refused to provide its policy until shortly before trial.

The lawsuit was filed by Angel May Ryder of Painesville, New Jersey, now 28, a former café barista who is unable to work, uses prosthetic legs and has needed daily assistance since the accident.
Ryder is represented by Kevin B. O’Brien, Christine Buddle, and Tyler Stampon of Stampon O’Brien Delsheimer Holloway in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, along with Emeka Igwe of the Igwe Law Firm in Philadelphia.


Ryder was driving south on Interstate 95 in Maryland on Dec. 21, 2018, when she struck a disabled vehicle parked in her lane of travel, according to the complaint.
A short time ago, another collision occurred between two vehicles in the same place, and one of the vehicles left the scene.
Ryder, with the help of the driver of the car that struck her, got out of her car and pulled over to the side of the road next to the guardrail, O’Brien said. There, while she was talking to a 911 operator, an 18-wheeler showed up at the scene, couldn’t stop in time and slammed into the wet pavement, before striking her.
O’Brien said Ryder’s legs were severed when the truck pinned her to the guardrail.

“This made the jury very upset.”

The jury found that DePass and the two trucking companies were 100% at fault for Ryder’s injuries.
Jurors awarded her $559,413 for past medical bills, $2.5 million for past and future lost wages, $25 million for future medical bills, $3 million for past pain and suffering, and $23.9 million for future pain and suffering.
Ryder has undergone at least 15 surgeries since the accident, and her expected future expenses for prosthetic legs are high because prosthetics need to be replaced every three years, O’Brien said.
Prime and defense attorneys took the position that Ryder was partly at fault because she stood on the side of the guardrail closest to the road, rather than climbing to the other side, O’Brien said.
O’Brien said that was a “ridiculous argument,” and that in his summation to the jury he ridiculed that position, telling the jury “Kennedy should have bowed out,” in reference to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I think that was the highlight of their argument. O’Brien claimed that this greatly upset the jury.
The truck that hit Ryder was contracted to transport equipment for General Electric. The lawsuit brought claims against General Electric and its subsidiary, Haier US Appliance Solutions, alleging that they negligently employed the trucking company defendants despite those companies’ poor safety records.
But GE and Haier were separated under summary judgment, according to court documents.
On three occasions, the first in 2019, Ryder notified the carrier defendants that it would accept their insurance policy limits to settle its claims against them, but they refused, although in 2021 they offered to settle for $150,000, but she refused, O’Brien claimed.
The defendants submitted their policy a month before trial, according to O’Brien.
“This case demonstrates the importance of why policy limit claims are filed at appropriate times in cases — and the terrible financial consequences for a plaintiff when a carrier attempts to delay payment of a valid catastrophic claim,” O’Brien said in an email. “Despite the fact that the defendant felt liability was in dispute, even though the police report found them wrong, the jury found the defendants solely responsible for the plaintiff’s harm, and did not find the plaintiff comparatively negligent.”

“A very viable alternative”

The lead defense attorney in the case, Charles Gainer of Ehrlich Gainer in New York, said at the time the truck struck Ryder she was leaning against the guardrail and facing away from oncoming traffic.
“We wanted the jury to consider the wisdom of putting themselves there, rather than the very practical alternative, which is standing on the other side of the guardrail, which is not that difficult to get over, and then, also, consider the direction of the vehicles,” Gainer said. “Coming.”
Gainer said the insurance company waited to roll out its policy because it wanted to see the end of discovery to get a feel for how the case would play out.
In addition, the insurance company was hoping to prevail on a motion to bring the case under the laws of Maryland, where the accident occurred, because that state’s laws were considered to favor the defense. But when that proposal was rejected, the insurer chose to roll out its policy, he said.

“The optics were so extreme.”

Gainer added that the large verdict reflects the sympathy the jury felt for Ryder.
During voir dire, potential jurors were asked whether they could set aside sympathy for the plaintiff if the evidence supported a finding in favor of the defendant. Those who said no were excused, Gainer said.
Ryder attended parts of the trial, without prosthetic legs and sitting in a wheelchair. Gainer said that when she testified, the witness box did not fit her wheelchair.
“The scenes in the courtroom were very difficult,” Gainer said. “The views were very extreme — to have this young lady sit in front of the jury for days, without legs. “In fact, (in) one of the legs there is no femur on the right side, it’s just hip”.
“The empathy factor associated with this case, for this young woman who has lost so much, was the highest I could have ever imagined,” Gainer said. “Even though jurors are instructed not to incorporate empathy into their decision, you can’t take the human out of the jury. I think that could have a huge impact on the jury.”


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