Phila. judge affirms $19.1 million plaintiff’s verdict in case of vehicle accident ending with leg amputation

By Jon Campisi | Apr 24, 2014

A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge has upheld a $19.1 million

plaintiff’s verdict in a case involving a man whose leg was amputated following a vehicle accident.

Judge John Milton Younge, of the civil trial division, affirmed on April 10 that the jury verdict, which was handed down last spring, was not excessive.

The plaintiff, Patrick Hennessy, was catastrophically injured back in 2009 while he was helping to push his friend’s disabled vehicle to the side of busy Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia, records show.

At about 2 a.m. on July 26, 2009, Hennessy was a passenger in a vehicle driven by the friend, Ryan Caruso, when the car rear-ended another vehicle being driven northbound on the boulevard by Bruce Reikow.

Hennessy’s injury occurred when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Shawn Robertson, Jr., which rear-ended Reikow’s vehicle, causing that vehicle to careen into Hennessy, crushing his limb.

Reikow had originally been named as a defendant in the case but he was later dismissed from the litigation.

The law firm that represented Hennessy at trial, Philadelphia’s Ross Feller Casey, stated that Caruso was found 45 percent negligent and that Robertson was found 55 percent negligent in the accident.

Robertson apparently never responded to the suit leading a judge to enter a default judgment against him.

Hennessy, who was 24 years old at the time of the accident, sustained injuries so severe as to eventually warrant the amputation of his right leg above the knee.

Attorney Matthew Casey, of Ross Feller Casey, brought suit against the defendants in early 2011.

At trial, the jury found that the negligent actions of both Caruso and Robertson ultimately led to Hennessy’s injuries.

“It is our hope that the verdict, once it is paid, will help Mr. Hennessy deal with the long, challenging road ahead of him,” Casey had said following the verdict.

A law firm spokesman previously told the Pennsylvania Record that Allstate, Caruso’s insurer, would ultimately be responsible for the entirety of the jury award since Robertson had no automobile insurance at the time of the accident.

In post trial motions, Caruso’s lawyers had requested a new trial on the basis that jurors should not have been allowed to apportion liability because the plaintiff’s injuries happened following the second accident while Hennessy was pushing Caruso’s vehicle, not the original rear-end collision caused by their client.

In his opinion upholding the verdict, however, Judge Younge stressed that the second vehicle accident, the one causing Hennessy’s injuries, would never have occurred if not for the fact that Caruso caused the first collision, the one that set off the chain of events leading to the amputation.

The judge wrote that it is “hornbook law that a tortfeasor is responsible for the consequences of his tort.”

Younge dismissed the argument by Caruso’s attorneys that Robertson should have been responsible for the entire incident giving rise to Hennessy’s injuries.

“The fact that the plaintiff’s right leg was not injured in the first accident did not relieve Mr. Caruso of responsibility for the harm his negligent conduct created,” Younge stated.

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