A $12.6 million settlement – the highest ever in Luzerne County Court – was awarded to Linda Ann Cappellini Friday afternoon as compensation for injuries she received in an automobile accident.
County Jury Award Biggest Ever Here
Ms. Cappellini, 26, formerly of West Wyoming, and now of Scotsdale, Ariz., said Friday she did not know how she would use the money.
“To tell the truth, I haven’t really thought about it yet,” she said.
“I am so thrilled for my daughter’s sake. It’s overwhelming,” said Mrs. Edolo Cappellini, of 665 Florida Ave. West Wyoming. “I know she’ll be taken care of for the rest of her life.”
A number of jurors on the nine-man, three-woman jury which returned the record-setting verdict embraced Ms. Cappellini as they filed out of the courtroom Friday afternoon.
They said they based their decision on the testimony about her physical pain, mental anguish and loss of earning power.
“Everybody as a person felt sympathy for the plaintiff but the testimony really did it for us,” said juror Jeff Rozelle, 23, of Swoyersville.
Doctors testified during the trial that Ms. Cappellini, who is employed as a pharmacist in Phoenix, Ariz., will probably have to stop working in three years due to complications from her injuries.
She testified Thursday that she must often miss work due to pain from her injuries.
Economists testified that she stands to lose more than $3.5 million in salary and benefits which she could earn as a pharmacist by age 65.
Doctors also testified at the trial that she can no longer participate in the sports she enjoyed before her accident – swimming, skiing, racquetball and basketball – and will not be able to deliver children naturally.
The doctors said that she will someday face hip replacement surgery.
According to the jurors, the $12,608,028 they awarded with the verdict, breaks down to:
$13,028 for loss of earnings to date.
$3.5 million for future impairment of earning capacity.
$1,300,000 for past and future physical pain.
$2,525,000 for past and future emotional distress.
$270,000 for loss of pleasures of life.
$3 million for inconvenience, discomfort and embarrassment.
$2 million for disfigurement and scarring.
Ms. Cappellini sustained hip, pelvic, and knee injuries when an automobile driven by Michael S. Kasuga of 294 N. Pleasant Valley Road, Gales Ferry, Conn., struck her car Oct. 18 on Route 115 near the Holiday Inn.
Defendants in the lawsuit were Kasuga and Nuclear Energy Services Inc., his employer; G.K. Technologies Inc., owner of Nuclear Energy Services and Budget Rent-A-Car of West Chester Inc., the company which rented the car Kasuga was driving.
Luzerne County Judge Arthur Dalessandro, who heard the case, said the four defendants can divide the cost of the settlement however they see fit.
Defense attorneys Patrick Dougherty, Hugh Mundy and Joseph Murphy could not be reached for comment Friday.
Dalessandro attributed the size of the verdict to the expertise of Ms. Cappellini’s attorneys, Joseph Quinn, Anthony Falvello and Thomas Helbig.
“In all my years I’ve never seen a more perfectly tried case,” Dalessandro said.
The judge said that the lawyers for the plaintiff presented 102 exhibits during the trial including doctors’ reports, anatomical charts, hospital records and charts from economists concerning Ms. Cappellini’s potential earning power.
Dalessandro said Friday’s verdict was the largest ever returned in the history of Luzerne County.
Other verdicts surpassing $1 million have been awarded in Luzerne County.
Lucy McDonald, of 167 Johnson St., Pittston, was awarded $4 million from the federal government Jan. 31 as compensation for suffering paralysis due to a swine flu shot administered in its swine flu program.
In September, a verdict of $1.875 million was awarded to Aline Richardson of Hazleton as compensation for the death of her husband, Roy, which was attributed to malpractice at Hazleton State General Hospital.
Both cases were tried by Mr. Quinn.
TIMES LEADER – WILKES-BARRE, PA
By MARY THERESE BIEBEL