Type of action: Personal Injury
Injuries alleged: Bruised Chest
Name of case: Randall Lee Olin, Administrator of the Estate of Karen Duncan Olin v. Joel Eric Newby
Court: Surry County Circuit Court
Case no.: CL15-033
Date resolved: June 23, 2017
Summary of Case:
Plaintiff was a front seat passenger when her husband had to swerve the vehicle off Route 10 into a ditch in Surry County, avoiding a head-on collision with the defendant. Plaintiff sustained only minor bruises to her chest.
Prior to the accident the defendant driver had been weaving in out of traffic for several miles and was being followed by an off-duty Norfolk city policeman and by another vehicle driven by a concerned citizen who called 911 to ask, “Will you give me permission to run this car off the road, he’s going to kill someone.” A few miles past the accident site the defendant pulled into his driveway, ran into his house and came out swigging a beer. Defendant was eventually charged with numerous traffic violations, but not DUI.
Plaintiff was terminally ill as a result of ovarian cancer and was undergoing extensive chemo. Plaintiff did not seek immediate medical care. Plaintiff subsequently did report the accident and discussed with an oncologist the pain and constipation that she felt was due to seatbelt pinching her intestines that were sensitive, because of chemo. One month after the accident plaintiff spent a week in the hospital because of complications related to cancer. Counsel for plaintiff met with her oncologist who, while sympathetic, would not causally relate plaintiff’s constipation and hospital stay to the accident, but would casually relate to the accident plaintiff’s complaints of bruising and discomfort. Plaintiff filed suit in April 2015 suing for $150K in compensatory damages and $200K in punitive damages for defendant’s reckless driving without mention of alcohol. In May 2015 plaintiff passed away due to cancer; subsequently, the plaintiff’s husband as executor was substituted as plaintiff.
Counsel for plaintiff recognized the potential value and difficulties of the case early. Consequently, no demand for settlement was made until way into litigation. Subsequent to defendant’s taking plaintiff’s depo and that of eyewitnesses an offer of $20K was proffered; a few months later it offered its policy limits of $50K; soon thereafter the UIM carrier offered $25K of its $50K exposure.
Plaintiff was able to obtain a $75K settlement with $0.0 of medical specials because of several factors: Plaintiff’s widowed husband was very sincere and would have made a great witness in what was now a wrongful death case ; the oncologist who would not relate her $100,000 hospital bill one month after the accident and adamantly resisted defense counsel’s repeated attempts in deposition to deny plaintiff’s claim of exacerbation of pain and distress caused by the accident; and by the fortuitous eyewitnesses who followed the defendant to his house. The biggest factor, however, was the defendant himself. His negligence and reckless driving were not only deplorable, but he ignored personal service to attend his deposition and, apparently, completely failed to cooperate with his own counsel. As a trial date approached it became obvious to defendants and their carriers that a reasonable jury would very likely award substantial compensatory and punitives in excess of $100,000. – From Virginia Lawyers Weekly