Case Studies: Kirk

Kirk Case Report — Vehicular Negligence

BRIEF STATEMENT OF CLAIM: The corporate Defendant's employee backed his truck out of a driveway into the side of the Plaintiffs' vehicle causing it to roll over and slide on its side 130 feet down Highway 701 north of Whiteville. Plaintiffs, Person County residents, were on their way to the beach. Plaintiff child was in a car seat beside the rear passenger door and sustained a blow to the forehead resulting in severe lacerations and a skull fracture without penetration into the brain. Plaintiff parents incurred minor injuries but initially thought their daughter was killed and the Plaintiff mother suffered symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.
PRINCIPAL INJURIES: Head trauma including severe laceration, skull fracture and closed head injury (3 year old girl). The parents sustained minor cuts and bruises and the mother suffered symptoms of severe emotional stress.
SPECIAL DAMAGES: Medical expenses for the child included three (3) plastic surgery operations, psychiatric expenses, neuropsychological evaluations and treatment
CASE NAME AND NUMBER: Susan Fox-Kirk, Guardian Ad-Litem for Whitney P. Kirk (minor); Susan Fox-Kirk and Mark Chandler Kirk, individually vs William Ray Hannon and Brad Reagan, Inc. d/b/a Carolina Tire Company (Person County File No. 97 CVS 302)
DATE CONCLUDED: August 14, 1998
NAME OF JUDGE: Judge Steven Balog
AMOUNT: Verdict amount of $1,835,000.00; with interest and costs approximately $2,050,000.00
INSURANCE CARRIER: Traveler's Insurance Company
EXPERT WITNESSES AND AREAS OF EXPERTISE: Dr. Verne Lanier (Plastic Surgeon); Dr. Anthony DeFranzo (Plastic Surgeon); Dr. Thomas Gaultieri (Neuropsychiatrist); Dr. Cynthia Wilhelm (Rehabilitation Psychiatrist); Dr. Tom Giduz (Psychiatrist); Dr. J. Finley Lee (Economist); Dr. Gail Spiridigliozzi (Psychologist).
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS: G. Jona Poe, Jr. Durham, North Carolina.
ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANTS: Kirk G. Warner and Gwenda L. Laws of Yates, McLamb & Weyher, Raleigh, North Carolina.
OTHER USEFUL INFO: At the time of the collision, Plaintiff child was almost three (3) years old with no history of earnings or psychological testing. The issue of whether she sustained a closed head injury with residual brain damage was heavily contested by the Defendants. Their expert doctors, including a neuropsychologist from Bowman Gray School of Medicine and an internationally known pediatric neurologist from Boston testified that she had not sustained any brain damage and that, aside from minor, barely noticeable scarring, she was in all respects a normal six (6) year old child at the time of the trial. Plaintiffs' approach through its experts was in two directions: first, permanent scarring with attendant emotional problems; and second, closed head injury with resulting neurological deficits and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder caused by the head trauma. A major concern for the Plaintiffs was the location of the trial in Person County in that, typically, previous personal injury verdicts have been extremely low compared to more urban judicial districts. Plaintiffs approach was to direct the jury panel toward extremely large dollar amounts from the very beginning of the trial. The trial lasted a full two weeks with most of the testimony coming from expert witnesses concerning the issue of residual brain damage. The resulting verdict was the largest ever obtained in this judicial district.