SOURCE: VerdictSearch, a division of ALM Media LLC. Visit www.verdictsearch.com for more details.
Rosa was driving 65-75 mph in the southbound lanes of route 1/9 and was weaving
between lanes. The posted speed limit was
55 mph. Rosa said that another automobile, which was never found, forced him
to the shoulder of the road. Rosa’s car
skidded about 95 feet before it struck the
rear corner of the gas tanker owned by TJ
Transportation and driven by Alers. Initially, Alers told the other truck driver that
he had pulled over because he was tired,
but later he stopped on the shoulder after
an alarm went off signaling problems with
his truck’s airbrakes. It was established
that an alarm had gone off in the tanker
to warn of an airbrake problem about one
mile before the area of the shoulder where
Alers eventually pulled over.
Ortiz produced testimony from a truck-
ing expert indicating that Alers passed by
nine other opportunities to pull over after
the alarm sounded. An inspection of the
truck revealed eight mechanical problems
involving the truck’s air-pressure system
and brakes. The lawsuit alleged that Alers
failed to activate the truck’s warning lights
and put out warning signs after pulling to
the side of the highway. Alers and TJ Trans-
portation blamed the accident entirely on
Rosa. A defense expert testified that Rosa
was speeding and driving too close behind
a bus, which made it difficult for him to see
the tanker parked on the side of the road.
Ortiz suffered severe, non-fracture facial injuries which included degloving of
a substantial portion of her face. Although
Ortiz underwent numerous plastic surgery
procedures, she is left with significant and
visible facial scarring. She also suffered a
fracture of her left (non-dominant) wrist.
Ortiz was admitted to the New Jersey
University for three days, where she underwent the first of five plastic surgeries.
The plastic surgeon, who performed the
last four surgeries, testified that she will
require an additional six plastic surgeries.
Ortiz claimed a significant psychological
overlay to her traumatic injuries and her
facial scarring in particular. Since the acci-
dent, she refused to be at her cousin’s wed-
ding, declined to have her college pictures
taken, and became reclusive. Her mother
testified that her daughter is depressed and
has gained 50 pounds since the accident.
The jury found the non-settling defendants, Alers and TJ Transportation, 70
percent liable and the settling host-driver,
Rosa, 30 percent liable. The jury returned
a damage award in favor of Ortiz of $3
million. Since the trucking company and
its driver were found to be more than 60
percent negligent, they were liable for
the full $3 million verdict, less the host’s
$100,000 policy limit.
Compiled and edited by Patricia L. Harman
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