After a brick flew off a trailer, smashed through the windshield of a passing car and hit a woman in the face, it appeared that the case was worth no more than the $450,000 in insurance coverage for the trailer’s owner.
But Don Higley, an attorney at the Lanier Law Group in Burlington, said he discovered during depositions that a large retailer had loaded the bricks onto the trailer before the incident and “the light bulb went on.” That revelation led to a $5.95 million settlement.
Higley, who withheld the identities of the parties in the case, said the trailer was attached to a pickup that was heading south on Highway 117. His client and her husband, who are residents of Pennsylvania, were in the northbound lane when the trailer hit a bump, which sent the unsecured brick into their windshield.
According to Higley, the defendant retailer’s employee had loaded the bricks onto the trailer with a forklift and let the pickup drive away with the trailer without securing the load. Higley said he discovered what the retailer had done during depositions and amended the plaintiff’s complaint to include the company.
“It hadn’t occurred to me that a reputable retailer would just load a bunch of bricks for a guy,” he said.
The impact of the brick hitting the plaintiff’s face left her with an open head wound, skull and facial fractures, brain damage, blindness and other injuries, Higley said. He added that she has incurred more than $722,000 in medical expenses and expects to have future costs that total more than $4.6 million.
Higley, who tried the case in front of a 14-person focus group in Duplin County prior to the settlement, said four of the members sided with the defense, concluding that the retailer was not at fault. Four others were strongly on the plaintiff’s side and believed that both the retailer and the truck’s driver were negligent. The other six were on the fence.
“I said in my opening statement that this is definitely the most horrible pain and suffering case I’ve ever had,” Higley said.
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SETTLEMENT REPORT – PERSONAL INJURY
Amount: $5.9 million
Injuries alleged: Traumatic skull and facial fractures, open head injury and brain damage
Case name: Withheld
Mediator: Mike Jones of Goldsboro
Date of settlement: Dec. 12, 2017
Most helpful experts: Linda Sproat, life care planner in Raleigh; and Steve Farlow, engineer in Raleigh
Attorneys for plaintiff: David Higley of Burlington, Lisa Lanier of Durham and David Overton of Raleigh, all of the Lanier Law Group
Attorney for defendant: Withheld