A driver’s examiner who was injured by an applicant who had an accident while trying to obtain his driver’s license will take home more than $300,000 in a post-trial settlement, his attorneys report.
Davis Poisson III and Fred D. Poisson Jr. of PoissonPoisson& Bower in Wadesboro report that their client, Jamie Hughes, a Stanly County resident and 52-year-old Navy veteran, sued Nicholas Steven McGinty after McGinty struck a curb during his driving test.
The vehicle’s owner, a construction company where McGinty intended to use his license for work, was also named in the suit.
The insurer, Nationwide, didn’t deny that the defendants were negligent in the 2016 incident, but claimed that Hughes had suffered no injury. Instead, they linked his back trouble to preexisting degeneration and an earlier operation. Hughes’ earlier back problems dated to a 2007 surgery, and he had experienced pain on isolated occasions over the years, such as falling on ice or during a rear-end crash.
Hughes countered by offering expert testimony from a neurosurgeon. F. Davis Poisson III said that Hughes had experienced neck pain within half an hour of the incident.
“[The neurosurgeon] said that it was an aggravation of the prior degeneration and the prior two-level fusion,” Poisson said. “It all kind of combined to cause the need for surgery.”
Hughes also introduced testimony from an accident reconstruction expert who concluded from tire markings on the road that the vehicle was accelerating at the time of the impact and was traveling about 30 to 35 mph when it struck the curb.
Poisson said that McGinty contended in deposition testimony that he’d been slowing down at the time of impact with the six-inch tall obstruction.
Hughes requested nearly $400,000 at trial. The trial lasted for four days, and jurors deliberated for a little less than an hour before reaching a verdict on July 2. The jurors awarded $326,000, but the matter was settled after trial for a $300,000 policy limit plus $7,500 for costs.
Nationwide had made an offer of just $500 before Hughes filed his lawsuit, and eventually made a $12,500 offer of judgment, Poisson said.
William Robinson of Robinson, Elliot & Smith in Charlotte represented McGinty. He declined to comment on the settlement. Poisson said that the construction company didn’t appear in court and effectively defaulted, although this wound up not mattering due to the eventual settlement.
McGinty did not pass his driving examination.
VERDICT & SETTLEMENT REPORT – MOTOR VEHICLE WRECK
Amount: $326,000 verdict, modified to a $307,500 post-trial settlement
Injuries alleged: Cervical spine injury and aggravation of pre-existing degeneration
Case name: Jamie W. Hughes v. McGinty Construction, Inc., McGinty Building Contractors, Inc. and Nicholas Steven McGinty
Court: Stanly County Superior Court
Case No.: 19 CVS 382
Judge: Kevin Bridges
Date of verdict: July 2
Demand: $397,000 at trial
Highest offer: $12,500
Special damages: $46,000 in medical expenses, $83,601.98 in past lost wages, $167,994.45 in future lost wages
Most helpful experts: Steve Farlow of Raleigh (accident reconstruction) and E. Hunter Dyer of Charlotte (neurosurgeon)
Insurance carrier: Nationwide
Attorneys for plaintiff: F. Davis Poisson III and Fred D. Poisson Jr. of Poisson Poisson & Bower in Wadesboro
Attorneys for defendants: William Robinson of Robinson, Elliott & Smith in Charlotte