Jon Campisi Apr. 5, 2013, 9:02am

A Philadelphia jury last month returned a hefty $15 million-plus plaintiffs’ verdict in a

motor vehicle products liability case against Central City Toyota.

According to court records and the attorneys involved in the litigation, the jurors awarded $11.4 million following the five-week trial to Noreen Lewis, a family physician who was seriously injured after the ball joint in the 2006 Toyota Sienna she was driving failed, causing the vehicle, which was rented from the local car-share service PhillyCarShare, to roll over and careen down a ravine, the lawsuit had stated.

Lewis, a Philadelphia resident, claimed in her suit, originally filed in early March 2010 at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court, that the accident caused her near permanent loss of the use of her left arm.

The minivan had been maintained by Central City Toyota, which was the only defendant found liable in the case, according to attorneys Thomas J. Duffy and Kenneth F. Fulginiti, of the Philadelphia firm Duffy & Partners, which represented Lewis.

The five other passengers in the vehicle, who were also named as defendants in the litigation, were represented by attorney Dennis A. Porno, of Pasquarella, Kunnel & Pomo.

The record shows that those five other plaintiffs, identified as Lashona Lewis, Evelyn Lewis, Michael Lewis, Bridget McGinchey and Bryanna McGinchey, secured $4.3 million of the jury’s award.

The record shows that while the suits were originally filed as two separate actions, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Allan Tereshko on Oct. 20, 2011, granted a plaintiffs’ motion to consolidate the cases.

The five-week trial was presided over by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge George Overton.

In her amended complaint, filed in April 2010, Lewis claimed that the incident that gave rise to her injuries was due to the negligence of the defendants.

The incident was caused by product failures and product defects, concealment of defects and problems, and was due to a failure to warn of unreasonable dangers, defects and problems with the vehicle, the suit alleged.

Lewis said she suffered injuries including a temporal fracture, three fractured ribs, a lung contusion, a heart contusion, a torn scapula, C5-6 disc herniation, and an L1 fracture and traction injury to the brachial plexus.

The Toyota dealership had argued in court that Lewis was to blame because the vehicle was being driven at a high rate of speed at the time of the accident, news reports state, but the jurors ended up agreeing with the plaintiffs’ counsel that the faulty ball joint broke while the vehicle was being driven, and that is what caused the car to flip.

News reports also quoted plaintiffs’ counsel Duffy as saying the dealership had offered up $1.7 million to settle the case during the trial.

In a plaintiffs’ firm news release, Duffy stated that his goal in the case was to give Lewis the means to move on from the accident and plan for her future.

“Now, that future includes financial resources to pay for good medical care, lost wages she would have earned if she could have continued in the profession she loved, and compensation for the Lewis lost her medical practice as a result of accident because she could no longer perform her job duties.

The dealership had argued that Lewis was driving too fast during wet weather at the time of the accident, which occurred on a highway in New York State, but her attorneys argued that the mechanical failure due to faulty maintenance and service was the true cause of the accident.

“As a result, what should have been a pleasant family outing to see Dr. Lewis’s daughter perform in a school play in New York turned into a career-ending injury which will leave Dr. Lewis with severe pain and physical limitations for the rest of her life,” the news release stated.

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