Robert A. Hyman, P.C.
Attorney At Law

Construction Site Accidents

$4,000,000.00 - SETTLEMENT BEFORE LIABILITY VERDICT – MOTOR VEHICLE – CONSTRUCTION SITE ACCIDENT – PEDESTRIAN CONSTRUCTION WORKER STRUCK BY MOTORIST AFTER INTERSECTION ACCIDENT – AMPUTATION OF LEG

 

John & Jacqueline Baggott v. Lisa M. Chupka, Kenneth J. Chupka, Piera M.E. Martel, Gino Martel & UBVL Auto Lt. / UBVL Auto Lt. v. Bancker Construction Corp. & Verizon/Bell Atlantic, No. 31791/00; 5504/01

Venue: Suffolk Supreme, NY

Judge: Arthur Pitts

Date: 11-23-2004

PLAINTIFF(S)

Attorney:

  • Robert A. Hyman; Law Office Of Robert A. Hyman, P.C.; Pleasantville, NY, for Plaintiffs John and Jacqueline Baggott
  • Lawrence A. Wilson; Schwartzapfel, Novick, Truhowsky & Marcus P.C.; Huntington, NY, for John Baggott, Jacqueline Baggott
  • Robert B. Marcus; Schwartzapfel, Novick, Truhowsky & Marcus P.C.; Huntington, NY, for Dominic A. Figurito, Dana Figurito
  • Harvey Weitz; Weitz, Kleinick, Weitz; New York, NY, for Dominic A. Figurito, Dana Figurito

DEFENDANT(S)

Attorney:

  • Carl L. Steccato; Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker L.L.P.; New York, NY, for Piera M.E. Martel, Gino B. Martel, UBVL AUTO LT
  • Diane E. Inbody; Feeney, Gayoso & Fitzpatrick; Hauppauge, NY, for Lisa M. Chupka, Kenneth J. Chupka
  • Harry P. Brett; Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker L.L.P.; New York, NY, for Piera M.E. Martel, Gino B. Martel, UBVL AUTO LT

Insurers:

  • CNA for Kenneth Chupka and Lisa Chupka
  • Allstate Insurance Company for defendants Piera Martel and Gino Martel
  • AIG Insurance Company for defendant UBVL AUTO LT

FACTS

On Dec. 6, 2000, plaintiffs John Baggott, 27, and Dominic Figurito, 47, laborers, worked at a roadside construction site that was located near the intersection of Lake Avenue South and Route 347, in Nesconset. A motor vehicle collision occurred at the intersection, and both vehicles careened toward the shoulder, where they struck a parked construction vehicle. One of the vehicles, a Mercedes Benz sedan driven by Piera Martel, deflected off of the construction vehicle and struck Baggott, Figurito and two other laborers. Baggott sustained a leg injury that ultimately necessitated an above-the-knee amputation. Figurito sustained crush injuries of his right foot.

Baggott and Figurito commenced individual suits against the Mercedes' driver, Piera Martel; the Mercedes' lessee, Gino Martel; the Mercedes' lessor, UBVL Auto Lt., the Mercedes' title owner; the other motorist involved in the collision, Lisa Chupka; and the owner of Chupka's vehicle, Kenneth Chupka. The plaintiffs alleged that Lisa Chupka and Piera Martel were negligent in the operation of their respective vehicles. The cases were subsequently consolidated.

The defendants commenced a third-party suit against the plaintiffs' employers, Bancker Construction Corp. and Verizon/Bell Atlantic. They alleged that the employers were negligent in their protection of the work site. The employers were granted pretrial summary judgment, and the third-party claim was dismissed.

Defendant UBVL Auto Lt., the lessor of the Martel vehicle, vigorously defended the case. It lost a summary judgment motion in which it tried to argue that the “lease” was a “purchase” and that UBVL was no longer a lessor. It lost its argument to eliminate the liability of a lessor.

The plaintiffs claimed that both drivers failed to maintain a proper lookout. They contended that the collision should have been avoided. Testimony established that Martel was traveling on eastbound Route 347 and that Chupka was making a right turn onto eastbound Route 347, from northbound Lake Avenue South.

Martel claimed that a green traffic signal allowed her entrance to the intersection. She contended that Chupka failed to yield the right of way. She also contended that Chupka's car struck the rear passenger side of her Mercedes. She argued that the contact point established Chupka's negligence. Martel also conceded that she never saw a construction sign, construction cones, a construction truck or any indication of construction which was ongoing adjacent to the intersection.

The court heard testimony from a nonparty witness, who claimed that he was present at the time of the collision. The witness contended that the collision occurred while he was turning onto southbound Lake Avenue South, from westbound Route 347. Based on this testimony, plaintiff  argued that Route 347 east’s signal was red for defendant Martel.

Chupka acknowledged that the Lake Avenue signal was red, but she contended that she stopped at the intersection, checked oncoming traffic and executed a legal right turn. She claimed that Martel's Mercedes veered into Route 347's right lane, from its left lane, and struck her vehicle. Martel denied this claim.

Injury:
The trial was bifurcated, so damages were not before the court.

Baggott and Figurito were placed in an ambulance and transported to Stony Brook [N.Y.] University Hospital.

Baggott sustained a right-leg injury that after numerous surgeries, ultimately necessitated an above-the-knee amputation of the leg. He uses a prosthetic device. He contended that his injury constituted a permanent disability that prevents his resumption of work.

Baggott's medical expenses and past lost wages totaled $312,180.62. He was reimbursed by workers' compensation insurance, but a lien was pending. He sought recovery of his past and future medical expenses, his past and significant future lost wages, and his past and future pain and suffering. His wife, Jacqueline, presented a loss-of-services claim.

The defendants contended that Baggott and Figurito made good recoveries and that they can resume work. They also contended that Baggott had launched a Florida-based business. They claimed that  produced surveillance videotapes that showed Baggott conducting business that contradicted his disability claim.

Verdict Information: During jury deliberations, the parties agreed to a $6 million settlement, which included a total of $4 million for the Baggotts and a total of $2 million for the Figuritos. The settlement also included waivers of both workers' compensation liens.

The Baggotts' recovery includes a total of $3.75 million from the insurers of Gino Martel, Piera Martel and UBVL Auto. It also includes a total of $250,000 from the insurer of Kenneth Chupka and Lisa Chupka.

After the settlement, the parties learned that the jury had rendered a plaintiff's verdict. Martel was assigned 75% liability, and Chupka was assigned 25% liability.



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