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Philadelphia County

The plaintiff estate brought this wrongful death and survival action due to the death of the decedent resulting from an accident in which the decedent drove into the back of a large commercial truck that had been abandoned on Cottman Avenue. The decedent was in his late 20’s at the time of his death. The collision occurred in the early evening of February 24, ________. The decedent was traveling to visit his wife who had given birth to their third child, born about five hours prior to the collision.

The plaintiff asserted that approximately 20 hours prior to the accident, a stolen truck had been left in the travel lane. The estate asserted that the truck was located less than ________ feet on the Philadelphia side of the border with Cheltenham and Abington Townships. The estate contended that phone complaints were made to the police departments in both townships and in Philadelphia.

Both townships settled prior to trial. The township police departments had placed flares on the roadway for a short period of time, but the estate argued that none of the police departments knew the specific jurisdiction. The three jurisdictions converged within ________ feet of subject location and one side of the street was Philadelphia while the other side of the street was Abington. The plaintiff estate asserted that the defendant City’s police department had sent officers out four times over a 20 hour period to look for the truck. Officers from the defendant city’s police department could not locate the truck. The decedent’s vehicle struck the back of the truck and he died the next day due to massive head trauma and brain stem injury.

The plaintiff estate argued that the defendant’s police department was notified of a dangerous condition and over a 20.5 hour period negligently failed to locate the truck. The plaintiff estate further contended that the defendant’s police department should have contacted the township police departments for a better location and should have continued to search for the truck. The defendant city contented that its police department had not been given an accurate location. The radio tapes of the township police departments indicated that the locations given to the defendant City’s department were not the same locations given to the township departments. The defendant City asserted that the locations given to its police department were generalized or erroneous. The defendant City further asserted that the reports its police department received indicated a blocked roadway and disabled vehicle. The defendant asserted that it was not unusual for such vehicles to be removed quickly. The defendant maintained that its police department did not receive a particular report of an abandoned vehicle. The defendant further asserted that although the map used by its police department was inaccurate, it was not unreasonable to use this map. The defendant argued that in order to determine that the section of roadway was, in fact, in Philadelphia, it was necessary to send a city surveyor to the location. The defendant also argued that the decedent should have seen the truck. The defendant presented testimony from an elderly man who contended that he had observed the truck while traveling on the roadway and that he was able to avoid the truck.

The defendant’s expert transportation engineer testified that the headlights of a motor vehicle would have illuminated the truck from a distance of ________ feet. The defendant’s engineer testified that had the decedent been paying attention, he would have been able to bring his vehicle to a stop. The expert engineer maintained that there was sufficient stopping time for vehicles proceeding at a speed of 35 mph. The plaintiff estate’s human factors expert and psychologist testified that the decedent would not have seen the truck due to the absence of street lighting and visual cues that would have alerted him. The expert offered examples of other vehicles traveling ahead of the plaintiff and the fact that the truck was very dirty. The plaintiff’s expert also asserted that one would not expect to encounter an abandoned vehicle, but rather would expect it to be moving in the flow of traffic. The plaintiff estate’s expert maintained that based on perception and reaction times, the decedent would not have had adequate time to respond and avoid the collision.

The defendant’s expert economist testified that the death of the decedent, a legislative lobbyist, resulted in economic loss to the estate in excess of $________. The decedent was earning between $________ and $________ income at the time of his death. The expert economist testified that the decedent’s past lost earnings from the time of his death to trial was $________, that future lost earnings with retirement at age 65 was $________ and at age 70 $________. The expert economist also calculated past lost fringe benefits at a value of $________ and future lost fringe benefits at $________. The value of lost services to the household was asserted at $________. The jury found the defendant City 51% negligent and the decedent 49% negligent. The jury awarded $________ for wrongful death and $________ on the survival action. The verdict was reduced to $________. The plaintiff estate has filed motions for a new trial on damages. The defendant City has also filed post-trial motions.

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