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ARTICLE ID 187749

$________ – MOTOR VEHICLE NEGLIGENCE – AUTO/BICYCLE COLLISION – 9-YEAR-OLD BICYCLIST IS HIT BY TRUCK AND DRAGGED UNDERNEATH FOR NINE FT. – HANDLEBAR IMPALES ABDOMEN – INJURY SUBSTANTIALLY RESOLVES EXCEPT FOR SCARRING – SEVERE LOWER LEG AND ANKLE FRACTURES – SKIN GRAFT – INFECTION – LOSS OF CARTILAGE – ANKLE FUSION.

Middlesex County, NJ

The plaintiff contended that the infant male 9-year-old plaintiff bicyclist was struck by the defendant truck after the truck driver, stopped at a stop sign, resumed moving, turning left after the infant plaintiff thought the defendant gestured for the infant plaintiff to proceed across the roadway. The plaintiff, who was also turning left, contended that although he successfully crossed approximately two-thirds of the intersection, the defendant "cut" the corner as he was turning left. The plaintiff contended that the child fell under the truck after impact, and was dragged nine feet. The plaintiff maintained that he sustained severe lower leg and ankle fractures on one side. The plaintiff required skin graft surgery, developed an infection, lost a great deal of cartilage and ultimately required an ankle fusion surgery. The plaintiff maintained that he will suffer permanent pain and difficulties ambulating. The plaintiff contended that he endeavors to maintain an active lifestyle as much as possible, and that he attempts to "run" by remaining back on his heels as he does so.

The plaintiff maintained that as he was waiting to cross, a large van-type truck stopped at the stop sign alongside him at the intersection and was there ten to 20 seconds. The minor plaintiff related that he thought that the driver of the truck waved him across the intersection. The plaintiff contended that after he had successfully crossed a significant portion, the truck began moving forward, striking him on his left side knocking him to the ground, running over the plaintiff and his bicycle and dragging him nine feet, leaving a skin transfer mark on the street. The defendant did not immediately realize that an incident had occurred and the evidence reflected that the truck was stopped by a witness a short distance later after the plaintiff and his bike emerged from the rear.

The defendant worked as a mechanic for a repair company and was test driving the truck for a low power problems. The defendant contended that he made all the appropriate observations including looking in his mirrors before and after he stopped and then moved forward. The defendant maintained that the infant plaintiff must have driven his bicycle alongside the truck in its blind spot after he was stopped and therefore he could not see him in the side mirror.

The defendant presented two witnesses who were parked in a car in the immediate vicinity. The witnesses testified that several minutes earlier, one of the witnesses chided the infant plaintiff because he appeared to be riding around the intersection in a careless manner, and that she warned him that he was in danger of being hurt. The witness’s view of the site of the accident was partially obstructed and neither witness saw the actual collision or could rebut the infant plaintiff’s testimony that he had ridden from the sidewalk before the defendant started moving the truck.

The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert prepared a "laser scan" demonstration, which the expert maintained used a line of laser light to digitally capture a physical object’s exact size and shape and place them into the computer world as a digital three-dimensional representation. The plaintiff’s expert maintained that the police measurements of the physical evidence, including the bike and the nine foot skin transfer mark, strongly supported the plaintiff’s contentions. The expert also maintained that the plaintiff and defendant would be able to see each other at the corner. The plaintiff contended that it was likely that the defendant, who was test driving the truck to ascertain the cause of the low power difficulties, was repeatedly changing the gears and that the infant plaintiff observed this and reasonably believed that he was being waved across. The plaintiff also read portions of defendant’s deposition in which he stated the problem with the truck created an “intermittent” total failure of the truck to accelerate. The plaintiff argued that the inference should be made that the driver was distracted by the problems with the truck and not making proper observations.

The evidence reflected that a large number of people gathered at the intersection after the accident. The defendant maintained that the physical evidence including broken bike wheel pieces could well have been moved before the police took measurements, rendering the reconstruction and the opinions about the location of the accident invalid. The plaintiff’s expert countered that the skin transfer marks were immovable and that the rest of the evidence, such as debris and marks showing the point of impact, and tire marks lined up so perfectly with the transfer marks that it would be practically impossible for them to have been moved.

The plaintiff spent three months as either and inpatient at the hospital or its rehabilitation unit where he underwent numerous surgeries including fusion of his right ankle and skin grafting. The plaintiff contended that his growth plate is disturbed and that he will need additional surgery at age 14 to correct a small leg length discrepancy. The plaintiff contended that he will permanently suffer severe pain and limitations. The plaintiff related that he was always very active, an avid basketball fan, and had planned on playing high school basketball. The plaintiff related that he attempts to remain as active as possible, and often "runs" on his heels.

The plaintiff also maintained that has permanent significant scarring of his right abdomen, thigh and ankle. The plaintiff contended that his prospects for future employment are limited to some degree and the plaintiff made a diminution in earnings claim. The plaintiff also contended that he will incur very significant future medical and care costs. The defendant denied that the plaintiff’s economic claims should be accepted.

The family lived in the immediate vicinity and the mother came rushing out of the house upon learning of the accident. The mother made a claim for severe emotional distress under Portee and the court, holding that required observations of the event did not occur, dismissed this aspect.The jury found the defendant ________% negligent and awarded $________.

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