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Palm Beach County

This action arose from a sideswipe collision involving the tractor-trailer driven by the male plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that the accident resulted from negligent maintenance of a flatbed truck from which the rear wheels separated on the highway. As the plaintiff slowed for the road hazard, he contended that the defendant driver of a second tractor-trailer negligently struck his truck in the side. The defendants each maintained that the other defendant was at fault for causing the collision. The defendants also denied that the plaintiff was injured as a result of the accident.

The plaintiff was operating his tractor-trailer on Route 95 southbound on November 29, ________. The plaintiff testified that the dual right rear wheels of a flatbed truck owned by the defendant Jack Vogel Simulated Brick & Stone separated from the truck, forcing the plaintiff to stop his rig. The plaintiff’s truck was then struck along the side by the tractor-trailer driven by the co-defendant Thomas Owen.

The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified that the accident was caused by the negligence of both defendants. The first defendant, Jack Vogel Simulated Brick & Stone failed to properly maintain its truck, allowing the lug nuts to come loose which resulted in the rear wheels separating from the vehicle, according to the plaintiff’s expert. Additionally, the plaintiff’s expert opined that the co-defendant Owen negligently failed to slow or stop his truck, attempted to pass on the left, encountered a small car and then moved back to the center of three travel lanes and negligently sideswiped the plaintiff’s truck, traveling up its side.

The plaintiff’s medical experts testified that the plaintiff sustained disc injury at L3-L4, L4-L5 and L5-S1 levels as a result of the accident.

The plaintiff underwent three surgeries, including insertion of pedicle screws, fusion, bone graft from hip and implantation of a morphine pump. His physicians testified that although the plaintiff suffered from a pre-existing lumbar condition, the necessity for the surgeries was causally related to the automobile accident.

The plaintiff was a 41-year-old furniture mover/truck driver at the time of the accident. The plaintiff testified that he returned to work after the collision and worked four weeks, but could not continue in his job duties. The plaintiff claimed a total, permanent disability from employment as a result of his accident related injuries.

The defendant Owen argued that the accident was caused by the separation of the wheels from the co-defendant’s truck due to poor maintenance.

This defendant also contended that the driver of the co-defendant’s truck (a Fabre defendant) should have noticed a noise from the rear of the truck or a wobbling indicating that the wheels were becoming loose prior to the occurrence of the accident.

The defendant John Vogel Simulated Brick & Stone argued that the co-defendant was completely responsible for the accident, since the plaintiff testified that he was able to bring his vehicle to a safe and controlled stop before it was impacted in the side by the co-defendant. Additionally evidence showed that there were dozens of other vehicles in all the other lanes which were able to be brought to a safe and complete stop without hitting any other vehicle. The defendant Vogel contended that the co- defendant Owen was rushing to make a delivery and was not paying attention to traffic ahead.

The defendant Vogel also maintained that it had no notice that the lug nuts and studs would break off and cause the dual wheels to come off. The defendant contended that the lug nuts were checked for tightness a few days prior to the accident and had been recently installed by an independent company when new tires were put on the rear of the truck.

The defendants’ radiologist testified that the plaintiff’s lumbar disc injuries pre-dated the date of the accident. Evidence showed that the plaintiff was involved in a prior motor vehicle collision approximately two years before the subject accident. The defendants’ orthopedic surgeon and neurosurgeon opined that the plaintiff’s surgery was due to his pre-existing condition and not causally related to the collision. Both of these experts testified that the plaintiff’s surgeries were not related to the automobile accident because the plaintiff would have had immediate complaints of back pain if he had suffered the injury which resulted in the surgeries performed.

The defense additionally argued that the plaintiff received no medical attention at the scene of the accident and made no complaints of pain at the scene. The defense contended that the side of the plaintiff’s truck sustained only a very little indentation to the metal on its side as a result of the accident and that a passenger in the plaintiff’s truck did not even feel the impact. The day after the accident, the plaintiff delivered ________ pounds of furniture and continued to deliver furniture up and down stairs, working as much as 80 hours per week for four straight weeks following this accident, according to defense evidence.

The defendants alleged that during the four week period in which the plaintiff continued to deliver furniture, he denied any back pain when questioned by his urologist for an unrelated condition. The defense maintained that lifting furniture on a daily basis following the accident was the precipitating cause of the plaintiff’s injury and not the subject accident. The defense also maintained that the plaintiff could find sedentary employment if he so desired.

The jury found the defendant Owen (striking truck) 45% negligent; the defendant Jack Vogel Simulated Brick & Stone 35% negligent and Jack Vogel’s driver (a Fabre defendant) 20% negligent. The jury also found that the plaintiff did not sustain a permanent injury as a result of the accident. The plaintiff was awarded $________ in economic damages comprised of $________ in past medical expenses; $________ in future medical expenses (over 30 years); $________ in past lost earnings and $________ in future lost earnings (over 20 years). The case is currently on appeal.

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