A Wake County jury has ordered a Virginia-based paving company to pay $1 million to a teenager injured when she crashed her vehicle on a road being repaired by the company, the girl’s attorney reports.
Coleman Cowan of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in Raleigh represented the plaintiff, Alexandra McArthur. Cowan said that McArthur, then 17, was driving her boyfriend home from school when she turned onto James Austin Road in Willow Spring, which was being re-paved by Whitehurst Paving Company, who’d been contracted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Whitehurst was using a double-layer chipseal process, a surface treatment that includes two layers of tar or asphalt and two layers of gravel. Chipseal is commonly used on lower-traffic areas and is less expensive than other methods of resurfacing, but not as long-lasting. It also presents hazards where its construction is improper or incomplete.
Cowan said that the second layer of gravel on James Austin Road had been applied but not yet swept. His client lost control of her vehicle after running over a patch of loose gravel, Cowan said, spinning into a ditch and slamming into a tree.
“Alexandra broke her collarbone and suffered head injuries,” Cowan said. “[Her boyfriend] suffered a T10 compression fracture and became paralyzed from the waist down.”
The trial began in February 2020 but was delayed due to COVID-19. On March 13, the same day that then-Chief Justice Cheri Beasley ordered district and superior court proceedings temporarily halted, the jury found Whitehurst liable for negligence and third-party breach of contract, Cowan said. It also found McArthur not liable for negligence in claims filed against her by her boyfriend and not contributorily negligent.
Because of the postponement, the damages phase was put on hold for more than a year. While courtrooms were closed, Cowan said, McArthur and Whitehurst unsuccessfully engaged in settlement talks. Whitehurst’s highest offer, Cowan said, was $250,000.
McArthur continues to suffer from headaches and memory loss, Cowan said. On April 26, nearly 15 months after finding Whitehurst liable, the same jury was presented evidence regarding her injuries. It returned the $1 million the next day.
Daniel Katzenbach of Cranfill Sumner in Raleigh, and Kevin Taylor and John Osgood of Taylor Anderson in Denver, Colorado represented the paving company. Katzenbach declined to comment on the verdict.
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VERDICT REPORT — MOTOR VEHICLE CRASH
Amount: $1 million
Injuries alleged: Broken collarbone, traumatic brain injury, intracranial bleeding, headaches, and memory loss
Case name: Alexandra McArthur v. Whitehurst Paving Co., Inc.
Court: Wake County Superior Court
Case No.: 18-CVS-5709
Judge: G. Bryan Collins
Date of verdict: April 27
Highest offer: $250,000
Most helpful experts: Sean Dennis of Accident Research Specialists in Cary
Insurance carrier: The Cincinnati Insurance Company
Attorney for plaintiff: Coleman Cowan of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in Raleigh
Attorneys for defendant: Daniel Katzenbach of Cranfill Sumner in Raleigh, and Kevin Taylor and John Osgood of Taylor Anderson in Denver, Colorado