Subject: Verdicts & Settlements-March 8, 2004: Teenager injured in accident with tractor-trailer

Pub: Missouri Lawyers Weekly

Author: Missouri Lawyers Weekly Staff

Category: Justice,Automotive,Employment,Insurance,Health Services

Sub-Category: Courts,Medical Professionals

Issue Date: 03/08/2004      Word Count: 490

Verdicts & Settlements-March 8, 2004: Teenager injured in accident with tractor-trailer

by Missouri Lawyers Weekly Staff

Dolan Media Newswires



A 14-year-old girl injured in an accident with a truck on Highway 60 sued the truck driver and the trucking company that employed him.

On Jan. 18, 2000 Toni Flood of Fairland, Okla., was on her way to a national cheerleader competition in St. Louis. She was a passenger in a van along with six other people.

As the van was making a left-hand turn in Newton County, it was hit by a truck driven by Richard Holzwarth, who was at the end of a run from California to Missouri. The truck driver contended that the van driver failed to keep careful lookout in making the left-hand turn.

Flood suffered a closed head injury and was flown to a local hospital in a Life-Flight helicopter. CT scans and a PET scan showed injuries to her brain. Flood spent nine days in the hospital, including six in intensive care. After her release she went through 4 1/2 months of physical, occupational and speech therapy. She continued to suffer a change in personality with mood swings and depression, and also had left-sided weakness.

The defendants argued that Flood made a total recovery. They had a surveillance video showing her playing junior varsity and varsity basketball and also cheerleading. Furthermore, they said that her IQ scores before and after the accident were the same, and that her grades even went up afterwards.

Finally, the defendants contended that Flood did not see another doctor until eight months after she was released from therapy, and did so only on the advice of her attorney.

The defendants rejected Flood's settlement demand and prejudgment letter offering to settle for policy limits. But six months before trial the defendants offered policy limits after discovering that the driver was on methamphetamine at the time of the accident, and the trucking company president pleaded guilty to charges of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Flood rejected the offer and proceeded to trial.

The case was tried on the issue of damages, since the defendants admitted liability. After a seven-day trial, the jury awarded compensatory damages and punitives. The court added prejudgment interest.

Type of Action: Automobile accident

Type of Injuries: Closed head injury

Court/Case No./Date: Lawrence County Circuit Court/302-309-CC/Feb. 5, 2004

Caption: Flood, et al. v. Holzwarth, et al.

Judge, Jury or ADR: Jury

Name of Judge: J. Edward Sweeney

Verdict or Settlement: verdict

Allocation of Fault: 100 percent to defendant

Attorneys for Plaintiff: Ed Hershewe, Alison Hershewe and Teresa Kenney, The Hershewe Law Firm, Joplin

Insurance Carrier: Sentry

Plaintiff's Experts: Dr. F. Rollin Bland, Grove, Okla. (family practitioner); Dr. William Havins, Joplin (psycholoigst); Dr. Melvin Karges, Joplin; Dr. Ken Krueger, Prairie Village, Kan. (economist); Dr. Christopher Meoli, Joplin (radiologist); Dr. David Preston, Prairie Village, Kan. (radiologist); Wilbur Swearingen, Springfield (vocational rehabilitation); Dr. Cherylon Yarosh, Joplin (neurosurgeon)

Defendant's Experts: Dr. Tara Spevack, St. Louis (neuropsychologist)

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Putting the Brakes on Unsafe Trucking Companies