The 31-year-old plaintiff filed this negligence action against the driver of an 80,000-pound concrete truck as well as the driver’s employer after the truck backed down a closed construction ramp and ran over the plaintiff, necessitating amputation of his right leg, hip, and buttock.
The case settled during trial for $8 million cash. In pre-trial discovery the defendant driver indicated that he was signaled to back up the concrete truck by another driver whom he did not know and who did not work for the defendant’s company.
An eyewitness to the accident testified that the plaintiff was signaling the concrete truck backwards down a closed construction ramp on the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia and gave the defendant driver a signal to stop. After the truck stopped, the plaintiff turned around to ensure that other nearby construction workers were out of the way. Unbeknownst to the plaintiff, the concrete truck driver began backing up without any signal to do so or without a backup alarm, knocking the plaintiff to the ground, according to the witness. The witness testified that the plaintiff frantically crawled for 5-10 seconds in a desperate attempt to escape the oncoming truck, but unfortunately, he was unable to do so and the truck ran over the plaintiff.
Records introduced by the plaintiff indicated that the plaintiff’s right leg was nearly torn off in the accident and his remaining left leg was crushed. The plaintiff was rushed by ambulance to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where his right leg, hip, and buttock were amputated in a six-minute emergency operation. His left hip, pelvis, femur, and foot were fractured and the plaintiff also suffered significant injuries to his groin area. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff’s wounds were the worst he had seen in 20 years of practice. In addition, the plaintiff’s trauma surgeon testified that the plaintiff’s hospital course was extremely complicated and he suffered from various infections and cardiac and respiratory setbacks. The plaintiff underwent approximately 25 surgeries during his hospitalization including numerous debridements of the amputation site, a colostomy to avoid infection of the wound, and additional surgery to remove post-accident bone spurring.
Proofs established that the plaintiff remained as an inpatient at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for approximately two months and was then transferred to a rehabilitation hospital where he remained for the next five months. Upon discharge from the rehabilitation hospital, the plaintiff began to receive physical therapy three times per week and will continue to require such therapy for the remainder of his life, according to the plaintiff’s experts. The plaintiff is presently wheelchair-bound for most of the day, although he can wear a prosthesis for 2-3 hours per day, three days per week. The plaintiff’s surgeon testified that prosthesis use is extremely limited because it increases the frequency and severity of phantom pain in his missing leg and also aggravates bone spurs that have developed at the amputation site.
The plaintiffs past medical bills approximated $870,000. The plaintiff’s expert economist testified, based on the plaintiff’s average yearly earnings of $45,840 in the three years prior to the accident, that his economic loss would be in the range of $1.8 and $4.7 million, depending upon work-life expectancy and productivity. The plaintiff’s wife, who was seven months pregnant at the time of the accident, also claimed a significant loss of consortium. She was advised by hospital doctors that her husband would probably not survive the night of the accident and was ushered into his bloodstained intensive care room to see him for one last time. The plaintiff’s intensive care nurse testified that at the time the plaintiff’s wife entered the room, some seven to eight hours after the accident, the plaintiff’s bleeding could not be stopped and four blood jets were in operation to ensure adequate blood supply. The defendants did not present witnesses. However, in deposition testimony, the defendant driver testified that he lost sight of the plaintiff as he was backing up the concrete truck and that another driver, who was sitting in a parked truck, signaled him to continue the backward motion. The defendant driver contended that he could not identify the driver who gave him these instructions, but that the driver did not work for the defendant’s employer. The case settled after six days of trial, approximately halfway through the Plaintiff’s case, for $8 million. Plaintiff’s expert economist: Andrew G. Verzilli of Philadelphia. Plaintiffs expert orthopedist: John Cuckler of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia. Plaintiff’s trauma surgeon: Michael McGonigal of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Musser vs. De Paul Concrete Company, et al. Case no. Jan ’90 – 2643; Judge Charles P. Mirarchi, 12-16-91. Attorneys for plaintiffs: Robert J. Mongeluzzi Defendant’s attorney: John A. Lord of White & Williams in Philadelphia.
This $8 Million settlement, perhaps one of the largest in Philadelphia County history, may have resulted from the dramatic testimony of the plaintiffs treating physicians who indicated that the plaintiff’s wounds were the worst they had ever encountered. Also assisting the plaintiff’s case and affecting the defendant’s settlement decision, was a critical ruling which allowed color photographs taken of the plaintiff’s injuries by surgeons in the operating room to be submitted to the jury. The defendant driver of the concrete truck contended that he was signaled to back up by a phantom driver who was not employed by the defendant company. However, the defense reportedly faced difficulties in presenting this witness due to two prior inconsistent statements, which may have affected the driver’s credibility concerning the alleged phantom driver.