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Defense admitted negligence, but claimed cell phone use by plaintiff

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, at approximately 1:19 p.m. Cathy Skeeters was driving a 2013 Chevrolet Impala southbound on Route 35 in Sussex County. Skeeters approached the intersection of Route 626, a 1995 Western S Tractor, with trailer, owned by Sterling L. Newell and operated by Dennis X. Alexander ran a stop sign while traveling eastbound on Route 626 and blocked Route 35 as it made a left-hand turn. Inspection of the logging truck by Virginia State Police showed that nine out of 10 of the tractor-trailer’s brakes were so badly out of adjustment that the Federal and Virginia Motor Carrier Safety Regulations prohibited operation of the truck.

The defendants eventually admitted negligence but argued Skeeters should have avoided the crash. A vehicle travelling in front of Skeeters did, in fact, avoid the logging truck. The defendants claimed that  Skeeters failed to take evasive action because, in part, she was distracted by her cell phone. The defendants relied upon Skeeters’ cell phone records showing five entries within the minute after 1: 18 p.m. and the Virginia State Police Crash Report stating the crash occurred at 1:19 p.m. The defendants also relied upon the Virginia State Trooper’s testimony that he saw no skidmarks from Skeeters’ car.

Plaintiff’s counsel took a deposition of AT&T regarding the specific meaning of the detailed “mobility usage” records for the cell phone. That deposition established that the five entries during the minute after 1:18 p.m. all amounted to a single phone transaction, and that transaction did not involve any actual usage of the cell phone by Skeeters but instead involved an incoming call which was forwarded to AT&T’s voice-mail messaging system.

The defense aggressively challenged the plaintiff’s damages case, including arguments that she did not have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and that her brain injury, if it did exist, resolved soon after the crash.

Judge B. Waugh Crigler of the McCammon Group mediated this case, which initially did not settle. It resolved the night before a six-day trial. The plaintiff structured a portion of her settlement with the assistance of Ron Feinman of One World Structured Settlement Design LLC.



Type of action: Personal Injury
Injuries alleged: Fractured Right Foot, Traumatic Brain Injury, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Name of case: Skeeters v. Alexander and Newell DBA Newell Trucking
Court: Sussex Circuit Court
Case no.: CL14-94
Name of mediator: W. Allan Sharrett
Verdict or settlement: Settlement
Amount: $2,500,000.00
Attorneys for plaintiff: John C. Shea and Lori L. Smith, Richmond; Roger T. Creager, Richmond
Plaintiff’s experts: Maged S. Hamza MD, V. Robert May III RhD, David Ross MD, Jeffrey Kreutzer PhD, Sharon L. Reavis RN, Peder K. Melberg MA, Avery J. Evans MD
Defendant’s experts: Mark Ross MD, Isabelle Richmond MD, James Levenson MD, James B. Wade PhD, James M. Provenzale MD
Insurance carrier: Bituminous Casualty Corporation, Travelers Insurance Company, National Indemnity Company

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