Subject: Verdicts & Settlements July 23, 2007: Injuries caused by oversized load

Pub: Virginia Lawyers Weekly

Author: Virginia Lawyers Weekly Staff

Category: Justice

Sub-Category: Courts

Issue Date: 07/23/2007      Word Count: 796

Verdicts & Settlements July 23, 2007: Injuries caused by oversized load

by Virginia Lawyers Weekly Staff

Dolan Media Newswires


RICHMOND, VA -- Larry Long was driving his employer's one-ton truck with a tool body in the right lane on Interstate 81 when he was clipped from behind by a wide-load tractor trailer passing him in the left lane. The tractor trailer was hauling a concrete jail cell that hung over each side of the trailer by 2 feet 4 inches. The tractor trailer caught the left rear side of the Long truck, throwing it into several 360 degree spins before it became airborne, flipped over the guardrail, and eventually landed in a drainage ditch 30 feet below the side of the interstate.

An independent witness in a car behind the Long truck made an excellent witness at traffic court and in deposition as to how she saw the tractor trailer move into the left lane to pass the Long truck just prior to the impact. This eyewitness also effectively eliminated the defense argument that the Long truck veered over into the tractor trailer, as contended by the tractor trailer driver.

Long remained in the vehicle during the accident, but some unknown object caused severe scalping injuries to his head, eye and ear, as well as a 5-6 centimeter skull fracture that was depressed into his brain, without rupture of the dural lining. There was a dispute as to whether Long lost consciousness. The defense elicited testimony from several experts that Long could not have suffered a head injury sufficient to cause lasting problems without having lost consciousness.

Long also suffered soft-tissue injuries to his neck and back and a broken left collarbone, as well as ligament damage to his right shoulder, which the defense contended was unrelated to the collision. Long's hospital stay was five days, with surgery to repair the severe scalp lacerations and skull fracture, which required permanent insertion of a titanium plate. The trauma surgeon, Dr. Sydney Vail, took graphic photos of Long in the trauma unit both before and after surgery and these photos were invaluable in showing the severity of Long's head injuries.

Long's treatment consisted of several follow-up visits with the neurosurgeon who repaired his skull fracture, and with the trauma surgeon for wound care. He also was treated by an orthopedist for his collarbone fracture, neck and back pain and right shoulder pain.

Long was off work for six months following the collision. He returned to work for seven months before seeing Dr. Gregory O'Shanick of Neurorehabilita-tion Services in Midlothian. Dr. O'Shanick permanently restricted Long from working due to hearing deficits and injury to plaintiff's frontal lobe, which results in balance problems, judgment issues, reduced attention span and temporary loss of taste and smell.

Long had upper and lower left-side weakness as a result of the injury to the right side of his brain, which resulted in difficulty in walking and performing other daily activities.

Plaintiff sought to tie in the insurance coverage from First Specialty and US Fire Insurance Co., which insured the manufacturer of the concrete jail cell that was being transported at the time of the collision. Plaintiff's theories were, in part, that according to Virginia Code, Virginia regulations and the federal motor carrier safety regulations, Osborne was a statutory employee of Tindall Corp. Another theory was that hauling a wide load that hung over the sides of the trailer by more that two feet on each side was an activity that was so dangerous that the independent contractor exception to liability did not apply. No rulings were made on these two issues.

Mediation was initiated by the defense counsel and held one month prior to trial with Judge Robert L. Harris Sr. of the McCammon Group as mediator. The primary insurance carrier, Northland, offered their limits at mediation and the secondary carrier, Zurich, mad an offer one week later.

Type of Action: Personal injury

Injuries Sustained: Open head injury including a skull fracture; severed middle meningeal artery; complex scalp laceration (scalping) from right ear to back of skull; severe eyelid laceration; right ear nearly severed; left collarbone fracture; multiple lacerations and bruising; soft tissue injuries

Name of Case: Larry E. Long v. Hobart Osborne, Osborne Trucking, Tindall Corporation and Tindall Haul & Erect Corp.

Court: Roanoke County Circuit Court

Case No.: Law # 05-267

Verdict/Settlement: Settlement

Date: March 6, 2007

Experts: Davis Ross, MD, neuropsychiatrist; Gregory O'Shanick, MD, neuropsychiatrist; Sydney Vail, MD, trauma surgeon; Paul Paxton, trucking expert; Larry Lynch, PhD, economist; Peder Melberg, vocational rehab; Sharon Reavis, life care planner

Insurer: Northland Insurance on the tractor owned by Osborne; Zurich International on the trailer owned by Tindall Haul & Erect; First Specialty Insurance and US Fire Insurance insured Tindall Corp, the company which contracted the haul by Osborne, and that coverage was in dispute.

Plaintiff's Attorneys: Raphael E. Ferris, Lenden A. Eakin and Richard M. Thomas, Roanoke


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