This case resulted from a Nov. 23, 2011 non-reportable motor vehicle collision that took place in a Spotsylvania County shopping center plaza. Liability was hotly contested.
The plaintiff, a 40-year-old female, alleged that she was stopped, waiting to exit the plaza, when the defendant made a wide right turn into the plaza and struck the driver’s side door of her late model SUV. The defendant, an 18-year-old female driving a Lincoln Continental owned by her mother, alleged that she had successfully made her turn when the plaintiff failed to yield the right of way and suddenly pulled out in front of her, causing the collision. The property damage was not significant and both vehicles were driven from the scene. No charges were placed against either driver since the crash took place on private property. The investigating officer said the plaintiff gave him two inconsistent statements on the scene. As a result, GEICO denied the claim from the beginning.
The damages were challenging because the plaintiff was recovering from a prior SLAP tear to her left shoulder at the time of the crash. She had undergone an arthroscopic shoulder surgery about two months before the crash, and she was actively receiving physical therapy. As a result of this crash, the plaintiff claimed soft tissue injuries to her neck and an aggravation of her pre-existing left shoulder condition. She underwent prolonged physical therapy after the crash and eventually another arthroscopic surgical procedure for her left shoulder. There was no claim for permanency or on-going treatment as the plaintiff reinjured her shoulder in a subsequent unrelated event.
Defense counsel did not contest the plaintiff’s claimed damages. Therefore, the parties reached an agreement to try the case on the sole issue of liability with an agreement on damages. If the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, then she would collect GEICO’s $100,000 policy limits. If the jury returned a verdict for the defendant, then the plaintiff would collect $25,000.
The plaintiff’s case in chief consisted of two witnesses: the plaintiff and a work associate who had met the plaintiff in the plaza prior to the crash to exchange supplies. The work associate corroborated the plaintiff’s version of events. The plaintiff also introduced the property damage photographs, which were consistent with her version.
The defendant testified at trial that she did nothing wrong and that it was the plaintiff who pulled out in front of her. The defendant also called the officer. At trial, the officer testified that he found both debris and the plaintiff’s vehicle in a location that supported the defendant’s version of events. As a result, plaintiff’s counsel was forced to present rebuttal evidence to impeach the officer’s testimony. Plaintiff’s counsel called his investigator who interviewed the officer about a month after the crash. At that time, the officer told the investigator that he found no debris/evidence of impact and that the plaintiff’s vehicle had already been moved by the time he arrived.
The jury deliberated for approximately one hour before returning a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. Pursuant to the pre-trial agreement, GEICO paid the plaintiff their $100,000 policy limits.[15-T-111]
Type of action: Personal injury – auto accident
Injuries alleged: Cervical strain, aggravation of a pre-existing left shoulder SLAP tear repair
Name of case: Powell v. Buraker
Court: Spotsylvania County Circuit Court
Case no.: CL13-940
Tried before: Jury
Judge: J. Howe Brown
Date resolved: July 29, 2015
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Amount: $100,000 (per pre-trial agreement)
Attorney for plaintiff: David M. Williams Jr., Stafford
Insurance carrier: GEICO