$8.4 Million Award After Fatal Tractor-Trailer Median Crossing

Wrongful Death – Head-on – Survival
Tractor-trailer crossed median, killing oncoming driver
VERDICT (P) $8,466,656
CASE Michael E Prociak, as Administrator of the Estate of Colleen A. Shea v.

Jerry R. Slyter, Page Transportation Inc., Keith Titus Corporation, John Pfrommer, LLC, and Page EX C., Inc., No. 3:02-CV-0168
COURT U.S. District Court, Middle District, Scranton, PA

JUDGE A. Richard Caputo

PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY(S) David A. Aikens, Jr., HKQ Law, Kingston, PA Joseph A. Quinn, HKQ Law, Kingston, PA Michelle M. Quinn, HKQ Law, Kingston, PA
DEFENSE ATTORNEY(S) Harold J. Friedman, Friedman, Gaythwaite, Wolf & Leavitt, Portland, ME Francis G. Wenzel, Polachek & Associates, Wilkes-Barre, PA

FACTS & ALLEGATIONS Plaintiff’s decedent Colleen Shea, 27, an accountant, was killed in a head-on collision while travel-ing on I-81 in Susquehanna County. A tractor-trailer driven by Jerry Slyter sustained a blowout of the front left tire, crossed the median and struck Shea’s late-model Mitsubishi SUV

Shea’s estate sued Slyter and his employer, Keith Titus Corp., along with the following Keith Titus’ subsidiaries: Page Transportation Inc., Weedsport, N.Y.; Page E.TC. Inc., Weedsport; and John Pfrommer LLC, Douglassville. The suit alleged that the defendants’ negligence and reckless indiffer-ence caused Shea’s wrongful death.

The estate argued that the crash should have been avoidable despite the blowout, which, it claimed, occurred 1,000 feet before the truck crossed the median. Counsel for the estate argued that Slyter should have been able to regain control in this space, but could not because of defective brakes. The plain-tiff also alleged that Slyter was excessively fatigued due to the number of days, and number of hours per day, that he had been driving, which exceeded federal regulations.
The defendants contended that Slyter made all reasonable efforts to stop his truck, and denied that the defendants’ con-duct rose to the level of reckless disregard or indifference.

At the time of her death, Shea earned approximately $36,000 per year as an accountant, and had accepted an offer for a marketing and management position at a different firm for $50,000.

Her estate claimed that she was alive for up to eight minutes after the accident, and was burned to death. The estate sought survival damages for the pain and suffering and mental anguish she sustained during that time. It also sought damages for the loss of her services and contributions to her parents, her lost earning potential, and funeral expenses.

An expert for the defense testified that Shea died on impact.

The jury determined that the defendants’ negligence caused Shea’s death. They attributed 50% of the negligence to Keith Ttus Corp., 5 % to Slyter and 15 % to each of the remain-ing defendants. They awarded a total of $5,716,656 in compensatory damages, but nothing on the claim for survival damages.

In separate deliberations, the jury found that all the defendants except Slyter were liable for punitive damages due to their reckless indifference.
Accordingly, they awarded $1.25 million in punitives against Keith Titus Corp., and $500,000 against each of the remaining companies.
The total jury award was $8,466,656.

ESTATE $11,000 past lost house hold services
$1,000,000 future lost house hold services
$21,174 funeral burial expense
$10,000 past loss of pecuniary contribution
$470,000 future lost pecuniary contribution
$2,750,000 punitive damages
$4,204,482 lost earning potential

INSURER(S) Ace Insurance (primary) for all defendants
AIG (excess)
TRIAL DETAILS Trial Length: 4 weeks
Jury Deliberations: 8 hours
Jury Composition: 8-member
EXPERT(S) Walter Kilareski, Ph.D., accident reconstruction, State College, PA
Michael Pepe, accident reconstruction, Indianapolis, IN
Andrew C. Verzilli, Ph.D., vocational assessment, Lansdale, PA
Carl Hunt, M.D., neonatology, Chevy Chase, MD
Richard A. Levy, M.D., pain & suffering evaluations, Scarborough, ME
Wayne Ross, M.D., neuropathology, Lancaster, PA
Stephen B. Wilcox, Ph.D., ergonomics/human factors, Philadelphia, PA Art Atkinson, trucking industry, Glendale, AZ
Walter Guntharp, trucking industry, Indianapolis, IN

DEFENSE EXPERT(S) Gary Ross, M.D., forensic pathology, Scranton, PA
– Joe Dessereau