$897,000 Cook County Jury Verdict for Rotator Cuff Injury Suffered by Pedestrian Hit By Cab and Negligent Entrustment Claim Resulted in Punitive Damages

On Oct. 17, 2011, Margaret Baumrucker was walking to work when she was hit by a taxicab in a crosswalk at the intersection of Oak Park Avenue and Windsor in Berwyn, Ill. Baumrucker, 60, was a psychiatric nurse and sustained a rotator cuff tendinopathy and glenoid labral tear/shredding in her left shoulder, which was unoperated. She will require periodic physical therapy treatment for the rest of her life. At trial, Baumrucker presented $25,641 in medical expenses and 13 weeks of lost time from work totaling $22,100. She is now retired.

Baumrucker asserted that the defendant cab company, Express Cab Dispatch, was willful and wanton in its failure to properly vet and clear the defendant taxi driver Luis Leal before hiring him as a one of its drivers, including its failure to check his prior driving record and investigate his employment background. The cab company also chose not to provide any training for him after he was hired.

Leal started working for Express Cab just a couple of weeks before this occurrence, and he reportedly had a bad driving record. The defendants admitted negligence, but denied willful and wanton misconduct and denied that the plaintiff was permanently injured.

The demand before trial was $250,000, which was the policy limits of the insurance provided for this occurrence. The jury was asked to return a verdict of $1,900,000. The only offer made by the defendants was $110,000 before trial.

The jury’s verdict of $897,741 was made up of the following damages:

• $397,741 for compensatory damages, which included:
o $150,000 for pain and suffering;
o $150,000 for loss of normal life;
o $25,641 for past medical expenses;
o $50,000 for future medical expenses;
o $22,100 for lost wages; and
• $500,000 for punitive damages.

The jury was given a special interrogatory that asked: Did Express Cab Dispatch Inc. act willfully and wantonly when it entrusted the vehicle to Luis Leal? The answer the jury gave was “yes.”

The attorneys representing Margaret Baumrucker were Joseph P. Shannon and Patrick D. Cummings. This verdict is an outstanding one given the difficulty in proving and sustaining a claim for punitive damages.

The plaintiff engaged a transportation expert who testified at trial as well as the treating orthopedic surgeon that took care of Baumrucker’s orthopedic injuries.

Margaret Baumrucker v. Express Cab Dispatch, Inc., Luis Leal, No. 12 L 6839 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident cases, pedestrian accident cases, motorcycle accident cases and bicycle accident cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 38 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Darien, Lincolnshire, Lincolnwood, Chicago (Bronzeville, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Edgebrook, Sauganash), North Chicago, Lake Forest, Zion and Wheeling, Ill.

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