70-YEAR-OLD RETIRED DECEDENT/PEDESTRIAN STRUCK AND KILLED BY DEFENDANT DRIVER TURNING RIGHT ON RED WITHOUT MAKING SUFFICIENT OBSERVATIONS AT INTERSECTION WHERE SUCH TURNS ARE OTHERWISE PERMISSIBLE.
In this action, the plaintiff contended that the defendant driver negligently failed to make observations before making a right turn on a red light at an intersection in which such turns would otherwise be permissible. The plaintiff contended that as a result, the 70-year old pedestrian was struck, sustaining a closed head trauma, subdural hematoma and subarachnoid hemorrhage which took his life several hours later. The decedent was retired. He left a wife who was rendered a paraplegic some ten years earlier in an accident, was suffering suffered a long term psychiatric depression that was related to the physical disability , and the plaintiff contended that the loss of services, guidance and advice that was occasioned by the death, was very significant.
The plaintiff contended that after taking a few steps from the curb with a green light, the defendant turned right on red and struck him. The plaintiff elicited testimony from the defendant during discovery that after looking to his left and right one time, and then looking to his left again, the he proceeded to turn right without making additional observations. The accident occurred on Rt. 35, the defendant pointed out that no crosswalk was present and maintained that in view of the busy nature of the highway, the decedent should have walked to a nearby intersection that contained a crosswalk where he could cross more safely.
The decedent was knocked to the ground and struck his head. The plaintiff contended that although the decedent initially appeared to avoid severe injuries, a Cat Scan taken at the hospital revealed a subdural hematoma and subarachnoid hemorrhage. The decedent died a short time later and the hospital records did not reflect severe pain and suffering.
The plaintiff maintained that although the decedent was retired, the death occasioned very significant economic losses. The evidence disclosed that approximately 10 years earlier, the widow had been rendered a paraplegic in an accident. The plaintiff also maintained that the widow had also suffered a severe psychiatric depression that was related to her physical disability and which necessitated psychiatric treatment . The plaintiff contended that the decedent provided extensive services, as well as guidance and advice to the widow. The plaintiff contended that the decedent cooked meals for his wife, regularly bathed her and kept care of the home. The plaintiff also contended that in addition to the household services that the plaintiff contended were analogous to the services provided by a home health aide, the decedent also provided the services of an LPN in administering medication to his wife on a daily basis. The plaintiff’s economist would have testified that the replacement value of the home health aide services was $931,000 and the replacement value of an LPN was $251,000.
The defendant would have pointed out that the widow’s niece has been providing such help since the time of the death and the plaintiff would have countered that the niece is under no obligation to do so, and even though she was caring enough to help during the pendency of the litigation, such care might well cease after the completion of the case, especially since the niece has her own family.
The case settled prior to trial for $500,000.
COMMENTARY : The plaintiff obtained a very substantial recovery in this death action in light of the fact that the 70-year-old decedent was retired and in view of fact that the evidence reflected relatively minimal pain and suffering until the decedent died several hours after the accident. The plaintiff, who emphasized that the decedent had been the primary care giver to his wife who was a paraplegic and who suffered a very significant psychiatric depression, would have presented, through his expert economist, evidence of the cost of replacement value of services to this widow which exceeded $1.1 mil.
In this regard, it is felt that although it is often advantageous for a plaintiff to permit the jury to use its common knowledge and experience to evaluate such Green/Bitner type damages which are presented in addition to losses stemming from lost income and evidence of conscious pain and suffering, the ability of the plaintiff’s expert to quantify specific elements of such losses in this type of case provided very strong leverage to the plaintiff during negotiations.