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Our Verdicts

$1,750,000

18-Wheeler Collision

Settlement

$1,467,000

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Jury Verdict

$1,070,000

AUTO ACCIDENT 

Jury Verdict

Defendant rear-ended plaintiff in early morning hours

Brazoria County

MOTOR VEHICLE

Rear-ender — Driver Fatigue — Truck

Defendant rear-ended plaintiff in early morning hours

Verdict

$89,233

Actual

$104,876

Case

Thomas Brandon Carruth, III v. Lora Marie Bruce, No. 47192

Court

Brazoria County District Court, 23rd, TX

Judge

Ben Hardin

Date

5/28/2015

Plaintiff Attorney(s)
Eric D. Nielsen (lead), Nielsen Law Firm, Houston, TX C.
David Mee, Nielsen Law Firm, Houston, TX
Defense Attorney(s)
Noe Moreno, G. Patrick Collins & Associates, Houston, TX
Facts & Allegations

On Dec. 22, 2007, plaintiff Thomas Brandon Carruth, 41, a heavy equipment operator, was traveling at highway speed in a pickup truck on Highway 288 in Brazoria County. It was 6:45 a.m. on a Saturday, and he was driving to work. Lora Marie Bruce was behind him in a Honda Civic. She had been up all night with friends and was driving home, a distance of 70 or 80 miles. She was about halfway home when she fell asleep at the wheel and rear-ended Carruth.
Carruth sued Bruce for driving while impaired from fatigue, failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to control her speed and following too closely.

Plaintiff’s counsel noted that Bruce was just 18, and he argued that she had been at a party.

Bruce did not strongly dispute liability.

Injuries/Damages

chiropractic; herniated disc at L4-5; lower back

Carruth claimed that he sustained a 3- to 4-millimeter herniation at L4-5. He had no prior complaints or treatment relating to his back.

After the accident, he continued on to his job. After a few hours at work, he called his girlfriend to take him to the hospital. He was treated and released. Two or three days later, he went to a chiropractor.

The chiropractor treated Carruth for three months. Carruth claimed that the pain persisted, and he went to an orthopedic surgeon, who ordered an MRI, which showed the herniated disc. Because Carruth was not experiencing radiculopathy in his legs, the doctor decided that Carruth was not a surgical candidate. Carruth claimed that he would need pain medication and doctor visits.

The orthopedic surgeon opined that all the charges and treatment were reasonable and necessary and that the herniation was caused by the accident.

Carruth enjoyed riding motorcycles but claimed he could no longer do so and that he had to sell his motorcycle. He was off work for about three months right after the accident. He claimed that he was unable to return to his job as a heavy equipment operator, but that his employer kept him on to do general maintenance work for the same pay ($40,000 a year).

He had a commercial driver’s license, but claimed that he was unable to sit long enough to drive long distances.

The paid or incurred medical bills were $11,233. He also claimed $12,000 in past lost earning capacity and sought damages for future medical bills, future lost earning capacity, past and future physical pain and mental anguish and past physical impairment. He sought a total of $150,000.

The Honda sustained moderate damage. No photos were taken of Carruth’s vehicle, but he claimed that his rear bumper fell off when his co-workers tried to straighten it on the morning of the accident.

The defense expert, also an orthopedic surgeon, opined that the accident was not severe enough to cause the disc herniation and that it resulted from pre-existing degenerative disc disease. (Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Carruth could not have been doing his job with a preexisting herniated disc.)

The defense also noted that the chiropractor had a letter of protection. Defense counsel suggested an award of $2,000 to $3,000.

Result

The jury found Bruce negligent and awarded Carruth $89,233. With prejudgment interest, the final judgment was $104,876.

Thomas Brandon Carruth, III
$11,233 past medical cost
$24,000 future medical cost
$7,000 past physical impairment
$5,000 future physical pain and mental anguish
$12,000 past lost earning capacity
$15,000 future lost earning capacity
$15,000 past physical pain and mental anguish $89,233
Demand

$25,000 (policy limit)

Offer

$7,500

Insurer(s)

Allstate Insurance Co.

Trial Details

Trial Length: 3 days Trial Deliberations: 1 day Jury Vote: 10-2 Jury Composition: 6 male, 6 female

Plaintiff Expert(s)

Zoran Cupic, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Houston, TX (treater)

Defense Expert(s)

Stephen I. Esses, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Houston, TX

Post-Trial

Bruce filed a motion for new trial.

Editor’s Note This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel and defense counsel.