Chain-Reaction Collision Caused by Trucker Results in $17.4 Million Jury Verdict

Russell Sheaffer was a graduate film student at Indiana University. He was in California making a documentary and was driving in moderate stop-and-go traffic on a freeway. As he was stopped in the line of traffic, Thomas Mose, driving a tanker truck for NuCO2, rear-ended a vehicle two cars behind Sheaffer’s while traveling at about 25 mph. A chain-reaction impact occurred. The car behind Sheaffer’s rear-ended his car causing his seat to break. His car was then propelled into the SUV in front of him.

Sheaffer suffered multiple skull and facial fractures, including fractures to his jaw and sinus, and a traumatic brain injury. He underwent open reduction internal fixation of the jaw, and his jaw was wired shut for 8 weeks. The trauma and fractures caused Sheaffer to develop ischemic bone disease, osteoarthritis of the jaw, and deterioration and degeneration of the condyles and mandible. A condyle is the smooth surface area at the end of the bone forming a part of a joint. His past medical expenses totaled $141,900.

Sheaffer continues to suffer from chronic pain and he will require additional surgeries and therapies to treat jaw pain and other problems. In addition, the brain injury has adversely affected his memory and his ability to cope with his jaw injuries. Sheaffer still plans a career in filmmaking, but he is no longer able to function at the level he was accustomed to before this crash.

He filed a lawsuit against NuCO2 alleging that its driver was negligent in choosing not to keep a proper lookout and timely stop to avoid the crash.

In addition to past expenses, Sheaffer asked the court and jury for $4 million for future medical expenses and between $1.2 million and $1.6 million to compensate him for future diminished earning capacity. He also sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

The defendant, NuCO2, admitted liability but contested the plaintiff’s claimed injuries. NuCO2 argued that the injuries Sheaffer suffered would not affect his future career plans. Sheaffer filed a statutory settlement demand of $7.31 million. The defense offered to settle the case for $5 million.

However, once the jury received the case after jury instructions, it reached a verdict of $17.4 million, which included $7 million for past pain and suffering, $5.5 for future pain and suffering, $2.7 million for future medical expenses, $2 million for future loss of earnings capacity, $141,900 for past medical expenses and $5,100 for past lost earnings. Since the jury verdict, the case has been resolved.

The attorneys expertly representing Sheaffer were Brian J. Panish, Deborah Chang, Thomas Schultz and Carla A. DeDominicis.

At trial, the Sheaffer team of attorneys presented experts in neurology, neuropsychology and neuroradiology. The defendant presented experts in neuropsychology, neuroradiology and oral surgery.

Sheaffer v. NuCO2, Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, North County Division, Case No. 37-2012-00058735

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling truck accident cases, interstate trucking accidents, car accidents and catastrophic injury cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including East Hazel Crest, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Flossmoor, Forest Park, Glenview, Northfield, Northlake, Northbrook, Midlothian, Morton Grove, River Grove, Park Forest, Thornton, Wheeling, Willow Springs, Crystal Lake and Palos Park, Ill.

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