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Camden County, New Jersey

The plaintiff driver contended that as he was standing next the trunk of his VW Beetle, which was legally parked on the roadway, the defendant driver failed to make adequate observations, swerving into him when the defendant encountered stop and go traffic. The blazer initially swerved to the right, struck the plaintiff and then swerved to the left, striking a stopped car. The plaintiff further contended that the Chevy Blazer the defendant was driving was defectively designed because of the presence of two tow bars in the front that extended several inches beyond the bumper. The plaintiff maintained that although the right leg that was initially struck by the Blazer was fractured, the plaintiff did not suffer an amputation of this leg, but that the trauma to the left leg was more severe and caused the amputation, reflecting that the leg suffering the amputation was struck by the tow hook. The plaintiff also maintained that a hole that was punched into the rear of the plaintiff’s car corresponded in size to the tow bar and struck at the point the plaintiff’s left leg had been situated, rendering the plaintiff’s arguments that contact with the tow bar caused the amputation more persuasive.

The evidence reflected that when the defendant driver was approaching, he encountered stopped traffic and swerved to the right side in an attempt to avoid striking one of the cars in the travel lane. At the time, the plaintiff was standing behind and facing his trunk. It was undisputed that as the defendant swerved, he initially contacted the right leg, which although fractured, did not suffer an amputation and that the left leg then suffered the more extensive injury. The defendant then continued swerving to the left, striking a stopped vehicle.

The plaintiff’s expert engineer maintained that the presence of tow hooks that protruded out from the bumper rendered the Blazer defectively designed. The expert contended that hooks add to potential danger and that the major purpose of including them is to add to the vehicle’s "macho" appearance. The defendant automotive manufacturer denied that this testimony should be accepted and contended that the hooks were properly included to facilitate the towing of the vehicle in case it gets stuck when off-road. The plaintiff denied that this testimony should be accepted and contended that in the event hooks were in the back and the Blazer was stuck with the front facing the tow truck, it would be easy to place a tow line around each of the front axels and extricate the vehicle.

The evidence disclosed that two EMTs happened to be driving by and were at the accident scene within moments of its occurrence. The EMTs applied a tourniquet and noticed that the leg was nearly severed at the knee. The plaintiff was rushed to the hospital and the above-the-knee amputation was ultimately completed. The plaintiff maintained that in view of the fact that the leg that was initially struck did not suffer the amputation and the other leg had done so, it was very likely that the initial leg was struck by the bumper and not the tow hook, and that when the tow hook struck the second leg, it caused the amputation. The defendant denied that this position should be accepted and contended that it was likely that upon impact, the bumper of the Blazer overrode the lower rear bumper of the plaintiff’s car, and that the crushing motion caused the amputation.

The evidence disclosed that the plaintiff subsequently required a series of revisions and that the amputation now reaches to the mid femur level. The plaintiff contended that he cannot effectively utilize a prosthesis and is confined to a wheelchair. The plaintiff’s physiatrist testified regarding the phantom pain that the plaintiff continues to experience and the physician maintained that such phantom pain will continue permanently. The plaintiff had worked as a guidance counselor and maintained that he is now permanently unemployable. The plaintiff contended that future costs, including lost wages, medical care and therapies, costs of equipment and costs of modifying his home will be very substantial.

The jury found that although the Blazer was defectively designed, there was an absence of proximate cause. They also found the defendant driver causally negligent and awarded $________.

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