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Miami-Dade County, FL

The plaintiff claimed that a tractor trailer, driven by the defendant truck driver and owned by the defendant transportation company, was traveling at an excessive speed, negligently changed lanes and struck her car. The plaintiff died approximately eight years after the accident of unrelated causes and the case was continued by her husband as the personal representative of her estate. The defendant argued that the accident was caused when the plaintiff’s car pulled from the shoulder of the road into the path of the oncoming truck. The defendant truck driver also died of unrelated causes prior to trial.

The plaintiff testified, through deposition transcripts, that she was driving in the right lane heading south on Interstate Route 95 in St. Lucie County at a speed of approximately 60 mph on November 7, ________. She testified that she signaled a change to the left lane and began moving into the left lane when her car was struck by the defendant’s tractor trailer. The plaintiff testified that her car was first hit from behind on the left bumper, knocked sideways and was then struck again by the truck in the left side.

The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified that evidence from the accident scene showed that the plaintiff’s car was traveling in the right lane when the defendant’s truck approached from behind at a speed in excess of 80 mph. The plaintiff’s reconstruction expert testified that the plaintiff moved into the left lane, but the defendant’s truck also moved into the left lane and struck her car from behind.

The plaintiff admitted that she had gone out to celebrate her birthday several days before the accident and that she had used cocaine. Evidence showed that trace amounts of benzoylecgonine (a metabolite formed in the liver by the metabolism of cocaine) was found in the plaintiff’s blood seven hours post-accident. The plaintiff’s toxicologist testified that it was impossible to state, with a reasonable degree of medical confidence that the plaintiff was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the accident.

The plaintiff sustained multiple orthopedic injuries, including a clavicle fracture, fracture of the left hip and arm fracture. She also suffered a severe injury o her left leg as a result of the accident. The plaintiff underwent a below-knee amputation two days post-accident and was hospitalized for several months. She subsequently fitted with a prosthetic leg. The plaintiff, who was in her early 40s at the time of the accident, made no claim for lost wages.

The defendant truck driver testified, through deposition transcripts, that he was driving in the right lane when the plaintiff’s car pulled from the right shoulder of the road onto the highway in front of his truck. The defendant testified that he attempted to avoid the impact by changing to the left lane, but the plaintiff drove across the right lane and entered the left lane. He also testified that there was a single impact to the left side of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The defendant’s accident reconstruction expert testified that his analysis of the evidence showed that the plaintiff’s vehicle was stopped on the right shoulder of the road, and pulled into the right travel lane at an angle of 40 to 45 degrees in front of the defendant’s truck. The defense maintained that the defendant truck driver was driving within the posted 70 mph speed limit and had insufficient opportunity to avoid the impact. A truck driver, who was traveling behind the defendant’s tractor trailer, testified that he did not see the plaintiff’s car on the highway before the collision.

The defendant’s toxicologist testified that the plaintiff would no longer have been under the direct euphoric effect of cocaine when the collision occurred, but that there is also a secondary or dysphoric effect involved with use of the drug. The dyphoric effect is caused by the body recovering from the cocaine use and involves fatigue, depression and erratic behavior, according to the defendant’s expert. The defendant’s toxicologist opined that the plaintiff would have been under the dysphoric effect of cocaine at the time of the accident and that her perception and judgment would have been negatively affected.

The jury found no negligence on the part of the defendant which was a legal cause of injury to the plaintiff. The case is currently on appeal.

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