Trial Reports: Reports on recent Indiana cases from the lawyers and judges involved. Submit a trial report online at www.theindianalawyer.com/submit-trial-reports.
Driveway repair impairs traffic flow, leads to motorcycle accident
Name of Case: Garrett Minniear v. Chase King d/b/a King Masonry LLC
Court: Marion Superior Court, Civil Division
Court Case Number: 49D03-0902-CT-008280
Injuries: Minniear’s injuries included two severely crushed feet, broken vertebrae, road rash, concussion and a comminuted fracture of both bones in his lower right arm.
Court Date: Oct. 25, 2012
Trial Type: Jury Trial
Judge: Hon. Patrick McCarty
Disposition: The jury returned a verdict for compensatory damages of $3 million, which was reduced to $1.8 million for 40 percent comparative fault. An additional $412,644 was added to this amount for post judgment interest which increased the total amount of compensation rendered to $2,212,644. The case is now in appeal.
Plaintiff Attorneys: Richard A. Cook and Bryan Tisch
Defendant Attorneys: W. Brent Threlkeld and Benjamin Stevenson
Insurance: American Family Insurance
Case Information: Minniear was riding a Suzuki Motorcycle southbound in the 7300 block of North Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. Meridian Street had four lanes at this location where Chase King d/b/a King Masonry LLC, was repaving a driveway. While doing the construction, King Masonry, placed debris in the western southbound lane of travel in the 7300 block of North Meridian Street, causing southbound traffic to slow and merge into the left lane. King Masonry did not use a flagman, arrow board or advance warning signs to inform the motoring public of the imminent lane closure. Instead, King used undersized cones approximately one foot in height that were not visible until traffic was right on top of the construction site.
King did not secure a permit and approval for the traffic plan for the closure of the lane and shoulder. Had King sought the appropriate permits, municipal authorities would have required a traffic control plan compliant with appropriate standard as set forth in the Indiana Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
Minniear had larger vehicles in front of him limiting his view of what was ahead. When a truck Minniear was following in the right lane merged left close to the hazard, Minniear had to quickly decide how to extricate himself. He could not go right because there was a dump truck on the shoulder facing the wrong way. After vehicles directly ahead of him merged left, Minniear took evasive action and merged left between two other vehicles in the left lane. It was necessary for Minniear to cut left around the outside of the truck ahead of him to avoid hitting it.
When Minniear moved slightly left of the vehicles in the left lane, he hit a raised median separating the north and southbound lanes. This caused Minniear to lose control, accelerate and careen back across the two southbound lanes. He struck a pile of debris which sent him and his motorcycle airborne into a front lawn. After his motorcycle landed in the front lawn, Minniear continued moving and struck a lamp post before he and his motorcycle came to a stop together near a large fir tree. Minniear sustained a concussion and was unable to recall how the accident occurred.
Conflicting testimony was presented by the witnesses concerning the motorcycle’s exact speed. The crash report showed all but one of the testifying eyewitnesses had estimated Minniear was going “only” 35 to 40 mph. In addition to the parties, a number of other witnesses testified. These included six eyewitnesses, law enforcement officers dispatched to the scene, a city inspector, doctors and experts. Gary Chambers from Wolf Technical established safety guidelines for a temporary lane closure for a construction site as did several police officers and the city inspector. Minniear’s injuries included two severely crushed feet, broken vertebrae, road rash, concussion and a comminuted fracture of both bones in his lower right arm. Minniear’s medical expenses were $136,000, to a low of $82,000 for Stanley v. Walker reductions. Both compensatory and punitive damages were sought. The jury saw fit to award only compensatory damages and found total damages in the sum of $3 million, which was reduced by 40 percent comparative fault by the plaintiff, who was alleged to have operated his motorcycle at an unsafe speed and left of center. Prejudgment interest increased the total amount of compensation rendered to $2,212,644. The case is now in appeal.
Submitting Attorney: Richard A. Cook•