Monday, October 10, 2016

Motorcyclist wins verdict over school-bus company

A man who alleged injuries after a bus backed into his motorcycle will receive nearly a quarter million dollars in damages.  “I think that the jury felt that the testimony of the plaintiff’s treating doctors was credible and returned a verdict accordingly,” said Jason Roth of Copley Roth & Davies.  

Roth represented plaintiff Michael Henry in his suit regarding the 2009 incident in Cass County in which a full-sized school bus reversed after coming to a halt at a four-way stop, apparently to give other traffic room to turn. However, the 40-foot vehicle collided with Henry’s Harley-Davidson which had come to a stop behind it. The plaintiff fell off his bike and rolled, alleging neck and shoulder issues.

Both liability and the cause of the injuries were disputed in the matter, Roth said. Defendant Apple School Bus contended that Henry had stopped in a blind spot, which was out-of-range of the larger vehicle’s mirrors, he said.  However, the plaintiff argued this was irrelevant since the bus driver had a duty to make sure the way was clear before backing up.  “Who has a better understanding of the blind spots on a school bus, the school bus driver or a motorcycle rider?” he asked.

He said that the defense also argued that the bus moved slowly and Henry could have avoided contact with it, however Roth countered that his client had neither the time nor the space to do so.  “We always thought that was nonsense,” he said. “It’s a two-lane road. He’d basically be pulling into oncoming traffic on the left side of the bus. If he went to the right, he’d be going into a ditch.”
The injuries themselves were also an issue. Henry sought no medical assistance at the scene but in the days following the incident visited his primary care physician who diagnosed him with a cervical strain, Roth said. A regimen of conservative treatment, including physical therapy, followed. However, nearly two years passed before another physician diagnosed cervical dystonia and ordered regular injections of Botox.

Roth said the defense argued that Henry had a 25-year history of neck problems and that his involvement in a subsequent accident, in which a tree fell on him causing a punctured lung and numerous broken bones could be responsible for his troubles.  “The medical records certainly suggested he had a preexisting condition in his neck but he hadn’t sought any specific medical treatment for it,” said Roth. “He certainly had not ever been in such a state where he required Botox injections every four months.”

The jury eventually awarded $275,000 in damages but reduced the figure by 10 percent based on allocation of fault.

Roth listed Michael D. Matteuzzi and Matthew J. Brooker of Matteuzzi & Brooker as representing the defense in the matter. Neither returned a request for comment.

Verdict: $275,000 (reduced to $247,500 due to allocation of fault)
Motor vehicle collision
Venue: Cass County Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 12CA-CV02352/July 21, 2016
Judge: William B. Collins
Plaintiff’s Experts: Dr. Todd Fristo, Independence, (primary care physician); Dr. Steven Simon, Overland Park, Kansas, (pain management)
Defendant’s Expert: Mark Ezra, St. Louis, (motorcycle operation)
Allocation of Fault: 90 percent to defendant/10 percent to plaintiff
Last Pretrial Demand: $695,000
Last Pretrial Offer: $50,000
Insurer: National Interstate
Caption: Michael v. Apple Bus Company; Sara James
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Jason P. Roth and Brandan Davies of Copley, Roth & Davies, Overland Park, Kansas

Defendant’s Attorneys: Michael D. Matteuzzi and Matthew J. Brooker of Matteuzzi & Brooker, Overland Park, Kansas

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