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Top Pennsylvania Personal Injury Verdicts of 2010, Part 2

Get information on the top injury verdicts in Pennsylvania and other resources. For a free consult with an Erie injury lawyer, call 814-833-7100 / 814-833-7100.

In Part 1 of this article, we reviewed the Top 5 Pennsylvania injury verdicts of 2010. Here, we provide summaries of more top Pennsylvania injury verdicts of 2010.

As with any case summary, the facts are unique and offer no prediction or assurance that another case will have the same or similar value.

6. Nelson v. Crane Co. – Philadelphia County – $14,500,000

This case actually involved three separate plaintiffs, whose verdicts collectively totaled $30 million. The largest verdict of $14.5 million was awarded to Darlene Nelson, representative of the estate of her husband, James Nelson, who died from mesothelioma related to asbestos exposure.

The Nelson case (and those of the other two plaintiffs, Larry Bell and Richard Van Tassel, both of whom died from their diseases prior to trial) presented some of the common elements seen in asbestosis cases, i.e., a plaintiff who is exposed to many different asbestos-containing products in their lifetime, multiple defendants who acknowledge that their asbestos-containing products caused mesothelioma, and pretrial settlement with the bulk of the responsible defendants. But the Nelson case presented some surprising twists.

First, the case was tried to a jury of only eight and was tried in “reverse bifurcated” fashion. That is, the case was split between damages and liability and the damages case was tried first. After the jury determined the amount of damages, a trial was then held on the question of liability.

Second, the two experts who testified for the plaintiff and the defense, respectively, were brothers! Dr. Daniel Dupont, a pulmonologist, testified for the plaintiff, while John Dupont, a metallurgist, testified for the defense.

The issue in the Nelson case was whether certain welding rods were capable of giving off asbestos dust. The defense said that it was impossible. The plaintiff presented testimony from witnesses who said that they observed dust coming off the rods. The jury sided with the eyewitnesses.

Unfortunately, the amount that will actually be recovered by the families will be far less than the jury verdicts as a result of the pretrial settlements, which extinguish the percentage of liability attributable to the settling defendants.

7. Rice v. 2701 Red Lion Associates, LP – Philadelphia County – $12,400,000

This product liability case tried twice, with the plaintiff winning both trials and actually obtaining a better verdict the second time around.

Leroy Rice was a forklift operator who was paralyzed when a rack system at his workplace broke and he was crushed beneath thousands of pounds of frozen food. The defendants included the manufacturer, Interlake Material Handling, Inc.; 2701 Red Lion Associates, the warehouse owner; Walter A. Schmidt, Inc., which installed the rack system; and Warehouse Technologies and Curtisservice, Inc., which maintained the rack system.

Prior to trial, all of the defendants except Interlake settled for $3.38 million. The case was tried to verdict and the jury awarded the plaintiff $10.6 million. Interlake appealed and was able to get a new trial, this time limited to damages and Interlake’s indemnity claims against the settling defendants. The new trial resulted in a larger verdict, $12.4 million, which plaintiff counsel attributed to Mr. Rice’s worsened condition since the first trial.

8. Pursell v. Volkswagen AG — Bucks County – $10.2 Million

Chelsea Pursell, 16, suffered catastrophic injuries in a car accident in May 2004. She was a passenger in a 1992 Volkswagen Jetta that struck a utility pole located just a foot off the edge of the road. Chelsea was wearing her lap belt but nevertheless suffered a spinal cord injury that has left her with paraplegia.

Chelsea sued Volkswagen, contending that Volkswagen had designed its rear passenger restraint system in a way that was contrary to published literature and in a way that caused her to be injured. Volkswagen denied that it was responsible for Chelsea’s injuries and claimed that the driver of the car and the utility company who placed the pole were really responsible.

The utility company settled for $100,000 prior to trial and the driver admitted that the accident was his fault but denied that he was responsible for Chelsea’s injuries.

The jury returned a verdict in which it found the driver to 51% at fault, Volkswagen 39% at fault, and the utility company 10% at fault. The jury also determined that Chelsea had incurred losses that included $8.7 million in past medical expenses, future medical expenses, and lost earnings, and further found that an additional $1.5 million was warranted for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses.

Because the accident happened prior to the abolition of joint and several liability, Chelsea will be able to recover the entire amount of the jury’s verdict.

9. Singleton v. Wyeth – Philadelphia County – $9.4 Million

This product liability case stemmed from the hormone replacement drug Prempro, which had been identified by the Women’s Health Initiative in 2002 as increasing the risk of invasive breast cancer. The study gained notoriety because it was discontinued, apparently because of the study’s findings.

Audrey Singleton was prescribed Prempro after the study’s results were released and she subsequently was diagnosed with breast cancer. The jury found that Wyeth, the drug’s manufacturer, had failed to warn Ms. Singleton’s doctor about the risks of Prempro; that Ms. Singleton’s doctor would have recommended a different treatment if he’d known the risks; and that Prempro was a cause of Ms. Singleton’s breast cancer.

The jury awarded $3.25 million in compensatory damages to Ms. Singleton, $200,000 in loss of consortium to her husband, and $6 million in punitive damages.

10. Decker v. Consol Energy, Inc. – Allegheny County – $7.8 Million

David Gillingham and Clifford Decker were badly injured when they stepped onto an outdoor staircase that collapsed and caused them to fall 14 feet. Mr. Decker suffered several left leg fractures that left him non-weight bearing for five months and that still require him to use a cane and to continue physical therapy.

Although Mr. Decker was able to return to work, his injuries diminished his earning capacity. An economic expert opined that Mr. Decker’s lost economic capacity was greater than $1.6 million.

The staircase collapsed due to badly corroded bolts. Plaintiff counsel argued that the defendant could have fixed the defects in the staircase with $20 in parts.

The jury found that the proper compensation for Mr. Decker’s losses was $2.8 million and that $5 million was necessary to compensate Mr. Gillingham.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Trial Lawyer

The personal injury lawyers at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. have an established track record of trying civil cases. To meet with Tim George or Eric Purchase and discuss your Erie injury case, call today: 814-833-7100 / toll free 814-833-7100. The consult is free and we won’t charge a fee in your injury case unless we recover money for you.

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