$30.69 Million Jury Verdict for the Catastrophic Injuries Suffered by Motorist in Head-On Crash

Luisa Cruz Mezquital was driving her Mazda minivan when the oncoming 1995 Jeep Wrangler, driven by the defendant Abdulmohsen Almassud, lost control, crossed the center-line and crashed into her minivan. The Cruz driver-side window shattered.  Cruz’s left hand struck the Jeep as it scraped down the side of her minivan.

Cruz, who was 29 at the time, suffered serious injuries to her hand and arm, including a degloving injury to her left, dominant hand with significant loss of skin, muscles, nerves, tendons and fascia. In addition, she suffered severe, open fractures of multiple bones in her hand and closed fractures of the ulnar radius of the left arm.

She underwent open reduction internal fixation surgery to repair the forearm fractures that included installing plates and screws. Her middle left finger was amputated. A four-stage reconstruction surgery to her hand was undertaken, which included a split-thickness skin graft from her upper thigh.

Cruz’s hand is now painful, scarred and disfigured. Although she has some use of her thumb, the limited range of motion in her remaining three fingers has substantially impaired her use of the arm. Not surprisingly, she also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. Her past medical expenses totaled $391,800.

Cruz is a single mother of three young children. Even with her severe injuries and subsequent surgeries, she had no choice but to return to work at a food processing plant to support her young family. But she missed about three months of work.

The defendant Almassud’s insurer, American Family Insurance, refused to pay the policy limits of $100,000. Cruz sued Almassud alleging negligence and negligence per se for violation of multiple state driving regulations, including failure to use due care, remain in a proper lane and maintain control of a vehicle. The defendant’s vehicle also had an altered suspension system. Almassud chose not to maintain the vehicle in a good working condition.

Before trial, the demand to settle the case was $1 million, which American Family refused to pay.

In fact, American Family denied that Almassud was negligent and argued that he lost control of the Jeep because the steering linkage separated. Further, Almassud contended that an auto center had replaced the steering linkage about eight days before the incident and had done the replacement work negligently, which caused it to fail.

Cruz countered those arguments with an expert witness who testified that the steering linkage was connected before impact and broke apart as the result of the crash.  Her expert testified that the incident was consistent with the steering knuckle on the driver’s side of the Jeep failing, causing the front wheel to drag and pull the Jeep to the left onto the oncoming traffic and the resulting head-on crash. The same expert testified that the loss of the steering combined with the Jeep’s pulling to the left was inconsistent with a steering linkage failure.

Cruz’s treating orthopedic surgeon testified that her injury was the most memorable hand injury of his 25-year career and that the plastic surgeon testified that the injury was a 10 out of 10 in terms of severity.

The attorneys representing Cruz made a decision during trial that even though it might affect the amount of the verdict, it was not appropriate to force the jurors to view the graphic photographs of her hand. Instead, counsel placed three of the photographs in a plastic bag marked “graphic.”  The decision allowed the jurors to look at the photos on their own terms in the jury room.

Cruz did not claim future medical expenses or lost earnings from her job.

The jury found that Almassud was 100% at fault. The jury signed a verdict for the general damages of $30 million and medical expenses of about $391,800. The addition of litigation expenses combined with prejudgment interest, brought the total jury verdict to about $30,690,000.

The attorneys who skillfully represented Cruz were Ben C. Brodhead, Ashley B. Fournet and Jennifer Mundy.

Cruz’s counsel presented experts in automotive mechanics and accident reconstruction.  The defendant’s attorneys presented a failure analysis expert in their case.

Mezquital v. Almassud, No. 14 EV 001930F (Ga. St. Ct. Fulton County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling catastrophic truck and automobile accident cases, head on crash cases, bicycle accident cases and motorcycle accident cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding communities, including Hinsdale, Joliet, Lockport, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Norwood Park, Round Lake, Barrington, Cicero, Deerfield, Evergreen Park, Fox River Grove, Bolingbrook, Chicago (Old Town Triangle, Chinatown, McKinley Park, The Loop, Little Italy, Lincoln Square, Armitage, Austin, Back of the Yards, Belmont Cragin, Bronzeville, Bucktown, Canaryville, Cathedral District, Wrigleyville, Hyde Park), Lockport and Schaumburg, Ill.

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