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Brevard County, Florida

The male plaintiff, age 41 at the time of the accident, was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his wife which was stopped in the right travel lane of I-95 in Brevard County. A tractor- trailer owned by the defendant company and driven by the defendant driver struck the stopped vehicle causing the plaintiff to be ejected from the car. The plaintiff’s wife died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. The plaintiff sustained severe brain damage and other injuries. The defendants truck driver and truck owner argued that the accident was caused by the negligence of the plaintiff’s wife (whose estate was also a defendant in the case) who was driving while intoxicated and stopped the host vehicle in the right travel lane without her lights being activated.

On August 6, ________, the plaintiff was a front seat passenger in a vehicle which was stopped in the northbound right (outside) lane of I-95 in Titusville at 2:00 A.M. The plaintiff and his wife, the driver of the vehicle, were returning home from a bar/restaurant where they had consumed alcoholic beverages. The p 7 3 defendant driver was operating a tractor-trailer northbound in the right lane and collided with the left front of the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff’s vehicle was deemed to be a total loss as a result of the accident.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant truck driver was traveling in excess of 75 miles per hour, was improperly using low beams and was not qualified to operate the tractor-trailer.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant tractor-trailer owner negligently hired and trained the defendant driver and failed to meet federal motor carrier safety regulations involving the driver’s hiring. The employment application submitted by the defendant driver was incomplete and did not include required information which pertained to the defendant’s past driving record and prior accident history, according to the plaintiff’s arguments.

The plaintiff’s medical experts testified that the plaintiff sustained a severe closed head injury in the accident with diffuse brain injury and has permanently lost the capacity to communicate. He also suffered a basilar skull fracture, multiple thoracic spine compression fractures, pneumothorax, bronchitis and pneumonitis stemming from the collision. The plaintiff was employed as a technician for ground support shuttle operations at Cape Canaveral at the time of his injury.

The plaintiff was found unconscious on the ground five to seven feet from the car following the collision. The defendant’s seatbelt expert testified that the plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt, allowing him to be ejected from the vehicle. The plaintiff’s seatbelt expert testified that the plaintiff was wearing the seatbelt, but that the direction and force of the impact caused the belt to become unfastened. The plaintiff’s experts also argued that the force of the impact was so severe that the plaintiff would have sustained a devastating brain injury regardless of whether he was wearing his seatbelt or not.

The defendant maintained that the driver of the host vehicle was at fault for stopping her car in a dangerous position on I-95.

The defendant driver testified that the lights of the host vehicle were not activated and that he did not see the car until it was too late to avoid the impact. Evidence showed that the host driver’s blood alcohol was in excess of .10 at the time of the accident.

The jury found the defendant tractor-trailer owner 25% negligent, the defendant truck driver 20% negligent, the host driver (plaintiff’s wife) 45% negligent and the plaintiff 10% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $6.7 million which was reduced accordingly. The case is currently on appeal.

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