WHAT HAPPENED: Our client was a conductor with over twenty years of experience who was being transported in a taxi operated by Defendant PTI (Professional Transportation, Inc.) when he was injured when the van crashed during March 2004. Our client was seated in the third van row behind the driver and was sleeping. The PTI van operator fell asleep at the wheel, and the van smashed into the trailer portion of a vehicle being operated by a truck. The van went off the road as did the truck and both suffered substantial damages.
Our client was transported from the scene by rescue squad. Medical testing revealed that our client had a fracture of his neck which required delicate cervical/neck surgery. After considerable rehabilitation, our client underwent functional capacity testing which indicted he could function at light to medium physical work levels, which medically disqualified him from his job duties with CSX railroad. Our client was earning just over $50,000 per year annual wages. Given that our client was 50 years old, he was not able to find a new job but instead entered the local community college for career re-training.
LEGAL STRATEGY: Counsel carefully reviewed the federal motor carrier safety regulations relating to the operation of this passenger van operated by PTI. It appeared that there were multiple federal regulatory violations because the van driver was called in for a second shift after working all night. It appears that the driver, and the company, violated multiple federal regulations by requiring excessive hours of operation from the driver. Also, if this was a knowing violation of federal regulations, Florida law may have allowed plaintiff to amend his complaint and assert punitive damages. The attorney representing PTI and the railroad argued that our client must not have been wearing his seat belt although our client claimed he was. There was no clear evidence that our client failed to wear his seat belt.
Our firm agreed to early mediation of the case after filing suit, and threatened to assert punitive damages if the case could not be resolved voluntarily. However, during October 2005, the case was settled with mediator Michael Burnett, with all the financial details of the settlement being confidential.
COURT/DATE: Jacksonville, FL (Duval County State Court)/October 2005
STAFF: Richard N. Shapiro, attorney; Donald Case, Charles Cunningham, investigators; Jackie Tilton, paralegal; Blair Gray, legal assistant