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Middlesex County, NJ

The plaintiff rear seat passenger in her early 20s contended that the defendant trucker negligently stopped on the shoulder of Routes 1 & 9, rather than pull into either side streets or parking lots in the approximate one mile distance in the time he indicated the air brakes sounded. The plaintiff also contended that the truck had some eight different difficulties with the air brakes, and should not have been on the road. The plaintiff further maintained that the trucker negligently failed to place warning triangles or activate his four-ways flashers. The plaintiff also named the host, contending that the host, who was speeding and who had been weaving in and out of traffic, lost control and struck the truck. The host maintained that he struck the truck when he lost control after being cut off by a phantom driver. The plaintiff supported that she suffered severe non-fracture facial injuries that included degloving injuries. The plaintiff contended that despite plastic surgical intervention, she will permanently suffer very significant scarring.

The host driver indicated that about ________ feet north of the Budweiser plant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, he was in the right lane when he was cut off by a phantom green Explorer from the left lane. The plaintiff testified that she never saw a green Ford Explorer cut the host off. The host alleged that he veered right, to the shoulder, to avoid the Explorer, and there was no contact between his Honda and the SUV. The host’s Honda left 95 feet of skid marks in the right shoulder before it hit the right rear corner of a gas tanker truck stopped on the shoulder. After that impact, the host’s car crossed 40 feet of snow-covered grass and became wedged under the trailer of a second truck that was leaving the Budweiser plant.

This second trucker testified at trial that he asked the defendant truck what happened, and that the defendant trucker responded that he was tired, and pulled over. The defendant trucker then had a telephone conversation with his employer. He then told the police he had lost air pressure in his brakes, and that he was stopped trying to get it back.

The evidence reflected that the defendant trucker did not have his flashers activated, and did not place a reflective triangle behind the truck. He received a summons from the police for obstructing traffic, to which he pled guilty without a reservation.

The plaintiff’s trucking operation/maintenance testified that the evidence reflected that the truck had eight separate defects relating to the air pressure system, and the truck should have been kept off the road that day. The plaintiff’s expert testified that the defendant truck driver did a poor pre-inspection of the truck, and had he done it correctly, he would have noticed the defects, and told his employer that the truck could not go on the road. The plaintiff’s expert also testified that given the alleged air pressure emergency, which the defendant trucker indicated had occurred for a mile before he stopped the truck on the shoulder, he should have pulled the truck off the road into one of nine separate areas, including side streets and parking lots.

The plaintiff’s expert further maintained that the defendant violated the Federal Motor Safety Carrier regulations (49 CFR section ________) by failing to activate his hazards, and by failing to place reflective triangles behind the truck to alert southbound motorists that he was on the shoulder which was no longer available as a “bail out” lane.

The defendant truck’s accident reconstruction expert contended that the sole cause of the accident was negligence of the host driver who was traveling at least 65 mph in the 55 mph zone, and who was too close to the van in front of him before the phantom green Explorer cut him off, resulting in his losing control.

The accident occurred on a clear day, and on a straight portion of roadway. The host testified that had he seen warning signs as he approached, he would have permitted his car to be struck by the Explorer, rather than take evasive action which might make him lose control.

The plaintiff also pointed out that, although the defendant trucker had his CDL for 11 years, he had only worked for three other trucking companies for no more than six months during this period, and that the subject incident occurred on his first day working for this trucking company.

The plaintiff contended that she suffered horrific facial injuries and a fracture to the left, non-dominant wrist. The plaintiff maintained that although nothing in her face was fractured, a good portion of her face was degloved. She was an inpatient at University Hospital in Newark for three days, where she underwent the first of five plastic surgeries. The plaintiff’s plastic surgeon – who performed the last four surgeries – testified via videotape that she will require an additional six plastic surgeries.

The plaintiff contended that despite the surgical interventions, the scarring will permanently be significant. The plaintiff maintained that the emotional consequences are very extensive, and contended that the permanent facial scarring is very significant and clearly visible. The evidence reflected that the plaintiff refused to be in her cousin’s wedding, did not have her college pictures taken, and is more reclusive. The plaintiff’s mother testified that the plaintiff is depressed, and has gained 50 pounds since the accident

The plaintiff made no income claims. The jury found the non-settling defendant 70% negligent, the host driver 30% negligent, and rendered an award of $________. Since the trucking company and its driver were found to be more than 60% at fault, they are liable for the $________ verdict, less the host’s $________ policy limit.

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