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Jury returns $18 million verdict in case of driver partially paralyzed in roadway construction zone

By Jon Campisi | Dec 6, 2013

Philadelphia common pleas court judge shelley robins new

A Bucks County man who sustained serious personal injuries, including

partial paralysis, following a motor vehicle accident in the fall of 2011 has won an $18 million personal injury verdict at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court.

Timothy J. Horrell, Jr., of Oakford, Pa., secured the $18,312,696.65 verdict following an eight-day trial that began on Nov. 12, court records show.

The plaintiff, who was represented at trial by attorney Gerald A. McHugh, Jr., of the Philadelphia firm Raynes McCarty, filed suit in early May 2012 against James D. Morrisey, Inc., over a Sept. 17, 2011, accident in Northampton Township that left him severely injured.

According to his lawsuit, Horrell was driving along Bridgetown Pike near Stevens Lane when his vehicle struck a raised expansion joint, careered out of control, left the roadway, and struck an adjacent stone wall and utility pole.

Morrisey had been conducting a milling operation in the roadway at the time that left loose gravel and other debris within the traveling lane, the plaintiff’s complaint stated.

After milling the road, the lawsuit stated, workers for Morrisey placed a partial asphalt patch, but left a metal expansion joint spanning the travel lane that rose about two inches above the ground.

The accident occurred while it was dark outside, at a time when the roadway was dry.

There was no signage posted, however, warning drivers that the roadway was being worked on at the time, the record shows.

“For the safety of oncoming traffic, signage warning of rough road, uneven surface or roadway resurfacing ahead is necessary to alert drivers to decrease their speed to maneuver through the warned condition,” the lawsuit read. “Without appropriate signage, plaintiff Timothy Horrell had no time to adjust before driving onto the uneven, rough roadway surface.”

As a result of the accident, Horrell said he sustained a host of injuries, including incomplete paraplegia and other spinal column damage.

The injuries, the complaint alleged, led to secondary complications, such as a neurogenic bowel and bladder, autonomic orthostatic hypotension, anemia, acid reflux and constipation.

Horrell maintained he had to undergo extensive medical attention in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities in and around Philadelphia.

The trial verdict sheet, which was recorded on Nov. 21, shows that Morrisey was found 60 percent liable while codefendant TRC Engineers Inc. was found to be 25 percent liable for the accident.

Common Pleas Court Judge Shelley Robins New molded the verdict to $15,565,790 to account for Horrell’s 15 percent comparative negligence, the record shows.

Defense attorneys in the case included Caroline S. Vahey and John T. Donovan, of the Philadelphia firm Rawle & Henderson, and John J. Hatzell, Jr., of Strachan & Hatzell, also located in Philadelphia.

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