A man who lost his leg when a Connecticut State Police cruiser struck him on a highway has received a substantial jury verdict. The jury reduced the $25 million verdict to $16.2 million based upon a finding of comparative negligence on the part of the plaintiff. Even with this reduction, the verdict may be the largest ever awarded in a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut.
At around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 29, 2010, the plaintiff ran out of gas and pulled his truck to the shoulder of northbound Route 25 in Bridgeport. He claimed that he could not reach his wife on his cell phone, so he got out of his car and began to cross the highway, intending either to find a gas station or walk home. State Police Office Darren Pavlik was driving his cruiser in the southbound lanes of Route 25 at the same time. Pavlik’s vehicle struck the plaintiff as he was crossing the southbound lanes on foot.
The impact severed the plaintiff’s right leg, which landed in a parking lot across the street, over one hundred feet away. The plaintiff landed on the shoulder of the highway. He suffered brain damage and a crushed pelvis in addition to losing his leg, and injuries to his hands prevent him from grasping anything. According to evidence presented at trial, Pavlik drove to the nearest exit after the collision, re-entered the highway on the other side, and drove around to the crash site. The dashboard camera reportedly shows Pavlik exit his vehicle, inspect his front bumper, and then approach the plaintiff to ask for his name and address. News coverage at the time of the accident said that Pavlik administered first aid until an EMS crew arrived.
A New Jersey woman received jury verdicts totaling $11.1 million in a lawsuit alleging injuries caused by a medical implant. The suit, Gross v. Ethicon, No. Atl-L-6966-10 (N.J. Sup. Ct., Atlantic Co.), is one of more than four thousand filed nationwide against manufacturers of mesh implants. The implant, intended to offset the effects of a condition known as pelvic organ prolapse, has been associated with serious and debilitating complications, sometimes requiring surgery to correct. The jury rejected a design defect claim, but found for the plaintiff on her failure to warn allegation. This was the first of the many pending mesh implant cases to go to trial.
The product in question, generally known as a transvaginal mesh implant, first came on the market about a decade ago as a treatment for pelvic organ prolapse. This is a condition associated with childbirth, certain surgeries, obesity, and other conditions, in which the pelvic muscles weaken and cannot adequately support the pelvic organs. This causes organs such as the bladder or uterus to drop, or prolapse, from their usual place in the body, creating pressure against other organs. The results may include mild to severe pain, incontinence, and constipation. The mesh implants are made of a porous material and act as a sling to support the affected organs. After hundreds of thousands of women received implants, thousands complained of pain, bleeding, and infections, and needed corrective surgery.
The plaintiff, who lives in South Dakota, received an implant of a device called the Prolift, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon Surgical Care. Complications from the implant, she claimed, caused severe pain, and eventually required eighteen unsuccessful surgeries to try to repair the damage caused to her organs. She said that she had to leave her job as a hospice nurse in 2006 due to complications caused by the implant. Her lawsuit asserted multiple causes of action related to products liability, including manufacturing or design defect and failure to warn of known risks.
A Connecticut woman received a jury verdict of $835,700 in a lawsuit against her employer for false imprisonment and intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. She worked in a home office at her employer’s residence, and was held there against her will for several hours when someone broke into the house. The lawsuit, Socci v. Pasiak, alleged intentional torts rather than a premises liability theory, such as inadequate security, because her employer allegedly cooperated with or assisted her assailant. The defendant challenged the verdict on several grounds, but the Connecticut Court of Appeals upheld it.
The plaintiff, Sara Socci worked for the defendant, Jeffrey Pasiak, in an office located in his home in Stamford. While the plaintiff was at work by herself on May 9, 2006, a masked man with a gun entered her second-floor office and ordered her to open the safe. She did not know the combination. While trying to get her to give him the combination, the intruder blindfolded and gagged her, and tied her hands. He also held his gun to her head and threatened to kill her family if she did not tell him the safe combination.
The defendant returned to the office while the intruder was still present. The two men fought, and the defendant sustained injuries. The intruder’s mask came off while they were fighting, and he was revealed as Pasiak’s close friend Richard Kotulsky. The two began to talk, and the plaintiff heard them discuss what to do about “the girl,” referring to her. Pasiak let Kotulsky leave the premises, at which point Socci told him about Kotulsky’s threats to her family. Pasiak allegedly advised her not to contact the police or speak to anyone about the incident. She said she did not leave the premises for hours, for fear of harm to her family.
The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld a $4 million jury verdict in favor of a woman who alleged medical malpractice against her OB/GYN. According to the court’s ruling in Downs v. Trias, the plaintiff’s family has a lengthy history of breast cancer on her mother’s side of the family. Her mother, grandmother, and two aunts all died from it. As a preventive measure, the plaintiff had a bilateral mastectomy in 1981, at the age of 22. She had an elective partial hysterectomy in 2005 due to a noncancerous fibroid condition. The defendant performed the 2005 procedure, which involved removing the uterus, but not the ovaries or cervix. He had treated the plaintiff for the previous twenty years.
Prior to the hysterectomy, the defendant informed the plaintiff that her ovaries were healthy, and that her family history of breast cancer, based on the information available, did not indicate a heightened risk of ovarian cancer. He noted that she could choose to have supplemental genetic testing to assess her risk for ovarian cancer, but she did not do so at the time. Roughly one year after the hysterectomy, the plaintiff was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer that spread into her abdomen. She maintained that she would not have developed the cancer if her physician had removed her ovaries during the hysterectomy.
A woman sued a Connecticut soccer arena for premises liability after her daughter injured her ankle during a game. She claimed that the carpet used on the playing field was inherently dangerous and caused her daughter’s injury. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants, and the Appellate Court reversed its ruling. The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court in DiPietro v. Farmington Sports Arena, et al, reinstating the original summary judgment.
The plaintiff filed suit on behalf of her daughter, Michelle, against the arena, its owner and manager, and the carpet manufacturer. She alleged that Michelle, who was eleven years old at the time, injured her ankle during a soccer game on March 9, 2002. The arena was equipped with carpet, rather than Astroturf, on the playing field. Michelle’s foot reportedly stuck to the carpet, causing her to fall and twist her ankle. She allegedly suffered ongoing difficulties walking, as well as severe pain and emotional distress.
The arena’s owner testified that he had twenty years of experience with indoor soccer. No industry standards governed indoor soccer playing surfaces at the time of Michelle’s injury, and the defendants produced evidence showing that the carpet was widely used by indoor soccer facilities. Plaintiffs conceded that the carpet was properly installed and maintained, and had no physical damage. The plaintiffs’ expert, a professor in the faculty of kinesiology at the University of Calgary, testified that the carpet’s properties produced a high amount of traction, and therefore a greater risk of ankle injury. He admitted to the defense, however, that had no direct experience with indoor soccer and that he knew of no industry standards for playing surfaces.
The fentanyl patch, which delivers a potent narcotic painkiller through the skin to people receiving treatment for injuries and pain management, poses a serious threat to children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning to the public that exposure to the patch can be deadly to children, and that patients using the patch should take great care in disposing of used patches.
Fentanyl is a synthetic narcotic analgesic used as a painkiller and anesthetic, available in generic form or under the brand name Duragesic. It is about one hundred times stronger than morphine, and its effects have a rapid onset and short duration. It is used to treat patients suffering from chronic pain, where ordinary pain medications cannot provide relief. It is commonly delivered to a patient through a skin patch that provides a continuous low dosage of the medication. The drug can be addictive, and doctors only prescribe it for people who are already used to the effects of narcotic pain medications. One patch will last at least seventy-two hours. Fentanyl patches should never be placed in the mouth or swallowed. Patients are specifically cautioned to keep patches away from children under the age of two.
Department of Transportation worker who lost part of her leg in the back of a dump truck while getting it ready for winter snow operations received a 3.6 million dollar verdict in Waterbury Superior Court on November 1, 2011. Her boot was entrained in the moving conveyor chain during a maintenance operation. The defense was primarily that she disregarded a “Danger” decal affixed to the side of the truck advising her not to stand in the body of the dump because of the moving chain which could cause injury. While that was true, the decal had been serially disregarded as the back of the dump bed was often used to store tools and for various other purposes and ther was a ladder affixed to the side of the dump body placed there by the Manufacturer and Dealer to enable access. The dealer who sold and assembled the dump body knew that and in fact their own mechanics would inspect the chain’s operation on occasion from inside the dump body as well while the chain was in motion. The State of Connecticut’s contract with the DOT required mandatory training on the proper operation and maintenance of the dump body which implicitly included how to clean and maintain the unit in a safe and recommended manner.It also required compliance with OSHA regulations and Industry safety standards. The Dealer maintained that it did so comply and that physical guarding of the chain during operation was implausible as any such guard would necessarily tend to interfere with its intended purpose. Accordingly, administrative controls which included proper training and clear operating instructions were essential and the Dealer maintained that it provided proper training and that the DOT which had operated a fleet of hundreds of similar trucks before the instant purchase should have known how to train their own employees in the first place. After the incident, Conn OSHA did cite the DOT which employed the injured worker for allowing exposure to unguarded nip points and in consequence thereof the DOT implemented a series of heightened administrative controls.
The case was brought under Connecticut’s Product Liability Act and was plead under legal theories including Strict liability for Defective design, Breach of the Statutory Duty to provide warnings and instructions, Breach of warranty and negligence. The manufacturer of the Dump bed had settled with the Plaintiff weeks before Trial and was a settled and released party whose fault was considered by the jury for purposes of allocating fault between the Plaintiff, the manufacturer and the remaining Defendant which was the dealer who sold the dump beds to the State under a procurement contract. The Jury allocated slightly less fault to the Manufacturer than to the Dealer who had the contract and primary relationship with the DOT and assigned 38% fault to the injured DOT worker as well resulting in a net verdict of slightly more than 1.3 million dollars to the worker in addition to a confidential sum obtained from the manufacturer shortly before Trial.
A few weeks ago, A Connecticut Jury awarded a $58 Million Verdict in compensatory damages to a child left with severe cerebral palsy on account of an unnecessary and improper delay in the child’s delivery at birth. The Jury’s verdict appears to be the highest Personal injury medical malpractice verdict in Connecticut history. There is likely to be an appeal filed by the defendant on the basis that the amount awarded by the CT jury was excessive. This is not an easy claim to make, notwithstanding the significance of the size of the award . Connecticut case law is supportive of the jury’s determination of what is appropriate financial compensation for injuries caused by negligence. ( ”the amount of an award [of damages] is a matter peculiarly within the province of the trier of facts. . . . [T]he court should not interfere with the jury’s determination except when the verdict is plainly excessive or exorbitant. . . . The ultimate test which must be applied to the verdict by the trial court is whether the jury’s award falls somewhere within the necessarily uncertain limits of just damages or whether the size of the verdict so shocks the sense of justice as to compel the conclusion that the jury [was] influenced by partiality, prejudice, mistake or corruption.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Mahon v. B.V. Unitron Mfg., Inc., 284 Conn. 645, 661-62, 935 A.2d 1004 (2007)).