Settlement Secured in Wisconsin Case Involving 3-Year-Old Tetraplegic

October 26, 2016

Partner Paul D. Motz and Attorney Kelly L. Ferron assisted John W. Patton, Jr. in a Wisconsin case in which the minor Plaintiff was a passenger in a car that was struck head-on by a drunk driver and subsequently clipped by a semi tractor- trailer unable to avoid the disabled vehicle in the middle of the highway. Seriously injured in the crash, Plaintiff was appointed a Guardian ad Litem who brought suit on his behalf against the intoxicated driver, the tractor trailer company, and its driver.

Just one week prior to defense expert disclo­sures, Patton & Ryan was called in to take over the primary defense role on behalf of the semi tractor-trailer company and the driver. Undaunted by the fast approaching trial date and the fact that the case had been in litigation for four years, the Patton & Ryan team accepted the challenge and began tirelessly working to overcome the time constraints and looming deadlines.

Central to this case was the issue of causation of the child’s injuries, as the case involved two separate motor vehicle accidents. In the first accident, an intoxicated driver crossed into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with the vehicle, carrying the Plaintiff, his mother and his 4-year-old brother. As a result of that crash, Plaintiff’s vehicle was disabled and left in the middle of the highway. The second accident occurred when the driver of a semi tractor-trailer came upon the scene of the first accident and, despite his desperate attempts to avoid hitting the disabled vehicle, clipped the rear corner of the car on the passenger side.

Unfortunately, the minor Plaintiff sustained extremely serious spinal cord and other injuries. Alleging over $15 million in economic damages alone, Plaintiffs retained experts to testify that it was the second accident involving the tractor-trailer that caused the child’s tetraplegia, instead of the high speed, head on collision with the drunk driver that stranded the Plaintiff’s car with­out power in the center of the highway.

In order to combat Plaintiff’s assertions that Patton & Ryan’s clients caused the child’s injuries, the Patton & Ryan trial team worked to ensure that only the best experts had been retained for the Defense. Patton & Ryan attor­neys conferred with each previously retained expert, ultimately deciding to let go several experts retained by prior counsel whose opinions were unfavorable to the Defense’s position. The team then retained new trucking experts, as well as a new physiatrist and life care planner. Patton & Ryan also obtained last minute key deposition testimony from the Wisconsin Highway Patrol accident reconstructionists that was completely supportive of the Defense’s liability position.

While deposing Plaintiff’s medical expert, Patton & Ryan attorneys secured unexpected testimony that the child’s injuries actually resulted from the first accident, not the second accident involving our clients. As a result of the Patton & Ryan team’s extensive preparation of the Defense experts, each expert testified virtually seamlessly at their deposition, effectively and sub­stantially deteriorating Plaintiff’s case.

Patton & Ryan also successfully overcame four (4) Daubert challenges while limiting Plaintiff’s accident reconstructionist and conspicuity experts’ opinions. The Patton & Ryan team also secured wins on a number of key Motions in Limine, including a motion that barred damaging video training materials. Patton & Ryan’s rigorous defense so weakened Plaintiff’s case that we obtained an extremely favorable settlement, despite the fact that Plaintiffs’ attorneys had previously indicated that they would never consider settling this matter because they were certain they would obtain an extraor­dinarily large verdict, which they wanted for advertising purposes.

Ultimately, Patton & Ryan’s aggressive, hard-line, and proactive approach in defending this case by obtaining the aforestated key testimony and en­suring the defense had the most effective experts – all within a mere couple of months – finally led to a settlement of approximately 3% what Plaintiffs had planned on asking the jury, less than 7% of Plaintiff’s last demand, and for only 11% of Plaintiff’s claimed economic damages.