A Pennsylvania construction worker who was paralyzed in a 2001 hit and run accident has received a $3 million workers’ compensation settlement, believed to be one of the largest settlements ever. His case has been, to put it mildly, a rollercoaster ride through many of the most difficult obstacles a personal injury plaintiff can face. After a lawsuit for negligence and Dram Shop Act liability, he had to pursue a claim for bad faith refusal to pay an insurance claim. With the settlement of his workers’ compensation claim, perhaps the case can have some closure.
Joseph Tuski worked as a road flagman in Warminster, Pennsylvania. In January 2001, he was directing traffic around a construction site when a car driven by Michael Petaccio reportedly hit him, throwing him fifteen feet in the air and sixty feet away. Tuski suffered severe neck and spinal injuries, brain injuries, and broken limbs. The injuries rendered Tuski a quadriplegic, and he continues to require around-the-clock medical care.
Petaccio was the manager of the Ivyland Cafe and had reportedly just left there when the accident occurred. He fled the scene of the accident and was arrested several days later. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault while driving under the influence in 2001 and received a prison sentence of one and a half to three years.
Tuski filed suit against Petaccio and the Ivyland Cafe, alleging that Petaccio was negligent and therefore liable for his injuries, and that the Ivyland Cafe was liable under the Dram Shop Act. This law allows someone injured by a person under the influence of alcohol to recover damages from the person or business that served the person alcohol, if they did so when the person was already visibly and unreasonably intoxicated. In early 2004, a jury in Philadelphia awarded Tuski $75.6 million in compensatory and punitive damages, which Tuski’s lawyer at the time claimed was the largest verdict in a liquor liability case in Pennsylvania history.