$7.25 Million Jury Verdict for Worker Killed on Highway Shoulder

Daniel DiNardi was a State Department of Transportation supervisor who was pulling his orange Department of Transportation pickup truck onto the right shoulder of a highway to remove debris. Before getting out of his truck, he activated the emergency lights and yellow strobe lights on his truck. After he placed the debris into the pickup truck bed and was walking to get back into his truck, Gina Davis, driving a tractor-trailer for PTX Services LLC, drifted off the road and struck DiNardi. He suffered multiple blunt-force trauma injuries and died shortly thereafter. DiNardi was survived by his parents and two minor children.

Davis pleaded guilty of misconduct with a motor vehicle and was sentenced to five years in prison, which was suspended after two years.

DiNardi’s family sued Davis and PTX Services claiming that Davis was negligent in choosing not to pay proper attention to her driving, keep a proper lookout and remain in her lane of traffic. The family also made a claim that Davis was fatigued from driving and had falsified her truck’s log book. The family presented evidence, including Davis’s own admission, that she had falsified her logs for the two days leading up to the collision. Davis also admitted at deposition and at trial that she drove onto the shoulder.

In addition to seeking noneconomic damages, the DiNardi’s family presented expert testimony that DiNardi’s lost future earnings totaled $1.25 million.

The defendants argued that Davis was distracted by a phantom vehicle and that DiNardi was negligent for stepping over the “fog line” separating the shoulder from the travel lane. (The fog line is the white line painted at the right side of the road to prevent motorists from driving off the roadway when there is fog or visibility is poor.)

The DiNardi family denied that there was any phantom vehicle and countered that the police determined that DiNardi was standing to the right of the fog line in the shoulder when he was hit. The DiNardi family also argued that DiNardi’s pickup truck was bright orange with a yellow flashing strobe light and that Davis had a duty not to hit him regardless of where he was standing. Plaintiff also claimed that Davis’s falsified logs, her admission that she drove onto the shoulder and her felony conviction all proved that she was entirely at fault.

The DiNardi family offered to settle early in the litigation process for $4.5 million, but the defendants offered $3 million to settle the case, which was rejected by the DiNardi family.

The jury found Davis 100% at fault and awarded $7.25 million including $6 million in noneconomic damages for DiNardi’s loss of enjoyment of life; the rest of the verdict was for lost earnings. With the addition of interest based on the defendant’s failure to accept an offer of compromise, the judgment amount reportedly rose to more than $8,400,000. The defendant’s motion to set aside the verdict and for remittitur are pending.

The attorneys representing the DiNardi family were John Houlihan Jr. and Michael Kennedy of Hartford, Conn.

DiNardi v. PTX Services LLC, No. HHD CV 12-6034844-S (Conn., Hartford Jud. Dist. Super., Oct. 17, 2014).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident cases, truck accident cases and motorcycle accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Calumet City, Franklin Park, Melrose Park, Elmwood Park, Highwood, Highland Park, Deerfield, Wheeling, Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills, Skokie, Chicago (Jefferson Park, Kenwood, Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Lincoln Park, Lawndale), Forest Park and Park Forest, Ill.

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