Cook County Jury Award of $1.1 Million for Head-On Crash That Caused Shoulder Injury

A Cook County jury signed a verdict for $1,100,000 for Martin Bader and his wife Julia. They sued Giovanni Melendez-Ortiz in 2015 when it was alleged that the defendant, Melendez-Ortiz, was negligent as he drove across the center line on Green Bay Road near Keith Avenue in Waukegan, Ill., and drove the wrong way on Green Bay Road. In doing so, Melendez-Ortiz crashed head-on into the Bader vehicle.

The jury’s verdict of $1.1 million was made up of the following damages:

  • $72,487.48 for past medical expenses;
  • $50,000 for future medical care;
  • $250,000 for past loss of normal life;
  • $250,000 for future loss of normal life;
  • $250,000 for past pain and suffering; and
  • $250,000 for future pain and suffering.

The total verdict reached was $1,122,487.48.

Mr. Bader, 55, alleged that Melendez-Ortiz was negligent for choosing to drive over the center line, failure to keep a safe and proper lookout, failure to take any evasive action to avoid the crash with Bader’s vehicle, failed to swerve or sound his horn when contact with Bader’s vehicle was imminent and last, failure to control his vehicle after crossing the center line and striking Bader’s vehicle.

There was also a count of the complaint alleging loss of consortium.

Melendez-Ortiz was issued a citation at the scene of the crash and pleaded guilty in Lake County Traffic Court for choosing not to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

One of the issues laid out by the defendant in this trial was that Martin Bader did not seek medical treatment until 12 days after the crash. However, there was testimony that he had immediate pain in one of his shoulders and felt it was popping out of his socket. An MRI showed that he had a torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum and was immediately scheduled for surgery once he sought this medical treatment.

After having shoulder surgery in May 2014, he returned to work months later as a handyman with no restrictions. However, over the next several years, he complained of increasing pain in his shoulder and found difficulty working but did not seek follow-up treatment. He did return to his treating physician in July 2014 and suffered from increased arthritis in the same shoulder. The doctor relayed to Bader that he would need a total shoulder replacement in the next two years.

Importantly, before the lawsuit was filed, Bader’s attorneys issued a policy limits bad faith demand on Melendez-Ortiz who chose not to make an offer. Another demand was issued after the lawsuit was filed and still there was no offer made, according to Bader’s counsel, Jeremy L. Geller. During motions in limine, Melendez-Ortiz’s policy carrier, American Access, offered its $20,000 policy limit; it was rejected by Bader’s lawyers.

In closing argument, the attorneys representing Melendez-Ortiz requested that jurors find in favor of Melendez-Ortiz by signing a verdict of not guilty, or in the alternative, signing a verdict for $5,000.

Bader’s attorney said he intended to pursue bad faith proceedings against American Access unless the verdict was paid in full.  Bad faith lawsuits occur when an insurance company refuses wrongfully to settle a claim within its policy limits and denies the claim without a reasonable justification.

In defense, Melendez-Ortiz claimed that there was a vehicle in front of him that made a sudden stop and that he collided with that vehicle and then lost control and crossed the center line.

At trial, Bader was also represented by Peter C. Nozicka.  In the report of this case, there was no indication of a post-trial motion or any other proceedings.

Bader v. Melendez-Ortiz, 15 L 012449 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling intersection automobile crash cases, head-on accident cases, bicycle accident cases, motorcycle accident cases and pedestrian 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 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Naperville, New Lenox, Orland Park, Palos Hills, Palos Heights, Tinley Park, South Holland, Worth, Alsip, Harvey, Rosemont, Wheeling, Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills, Chicago (Rogers Park, Jefferson Park, Jackson Park, Wicker Park, Lake Calumet), Joliet, Waukegan and Schiller Park, Ill.

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