The plaintiff was stopped at a red light at an intersection in Virginia Beach. He pulled up next to a police officer, who was admiring his Harley-Davidson when the plaintiff was struck from behind. The plaintiff was thrown into the intersection, and his motorcycle landed on his lower legs.
The police officer on scene investigated the collision and immediately noticed that the defendant was intoxicated. The officer performed field sobriety tests and arrested her for driving under the influence. At the station, she blew a blood alcohol level of 0.17. The legal limit it 0.08..
The defendant admitted she drank two and a half cans of Steel Reserve 211 malt liquor while sitting at Rudee Inlet.
At the trial, the plaintiff called a toxicologist with the Department of Forensic Science. She explained to the jury how a certificate of blood-alcohol analysis is collected, the extent of the suspect’s impairment, and that defendant’s consumption of the reported 2.5 Steel Reserves was inconsistent with a BAC as high as 0.17.
Defendant contested both liability and damages. She maintained that the plaintiff cut her off when approaching the intersection, although the police officer on scene testified that the plaintiff was stopped for approximately 10 seconds before he was struck.
The plaintiff was 69 years old at the time of the collision and imaging depicted degenerative disc disease, which the treating neurosurgeon testified was almost a certainty for someone his age. Plaintiff testified he had lingering soreness as a result of the collision but otherwise healed from the fracture.
The defense argued that the plaintiff had minimal pain six to eight weeks after the collision, as reported in the records, and that the plaintiff’s T12 fracture experienced routine healing.
Counsel for the plaintiff broke down compensatory damages in a Wakole pie chart and highlighted the plaintiff’s experience from the point of impact, his first steps days later in the hospital, and the remainder of the healing process (including the hard brace that someone with a thoracic fracture must constantly wear) in an effort to give the jury a more complete picture of plaintiff’s suffering and inconvenience than the reported minimal pain levels might indicate. Defense counsel argued the defendant’s financial condition on the issue of punitive damages, and the jury clearly – and thoughtfully – considered all of the factors on compensatory and punitive damages in their decision.
The jury deliberated for approximately two hours following the two-day trial and returned a verdict of $317,000 in compensatory damages, with interest from the date of the collision, plus $125,000 in punitive damages.[18-T-097]
Type of action: Motorcycle Collision
Injuries alleged: T12 fracture; injury to neck ligaments
Name of case: Alexander v. Viera-Rosario
Court: Virginia Beach Circuit Court
Case no.: CL17001591-00
Tried before: Jury
Name of judge or mediator: Judge James C. Lewis
Date resolved: Aug. 10, 2018
Special damages: $67,443.83
Demand: All available coverage (Three policies total) of $400,000
Offer: 50 percent of the last UIM policy of $300,000, or $150,000, plus $100,000 from liability and first-tier UIM carrier already paid, for a total settlement of $250,000
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Amount: $442,000 consisting of $317,000 in compensatory damages and $125,000 in punitive damages
Attorneys for plaintiff: Edwin S. Booth, Virginia Beach
Plaintiff’s experts: Jennie Duffy, toxicologist with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science
Matthew Mayr, MD, treating neurosurgeon
Insurance carrier: USAA