Verdicts and Settlements:
Tour Bus Passenger from New Jersey Recovers $600,000 for Neck Injuries Sustained Aboard Bus
Stavros Sitinas successfully negotiated a substantial $600,000 settlement on behalf of a 41 year old New Jersey woman who was injured when the tour bus she was traveling in performed an evasive maneuver when it suddenly and unexpectedly came upon a disabled vehicle in the middle lane of the Cross Bronx Expressway.
This accident took place on May 19, 2002 and the case was being handled by another law firm, which then retained Stavros E. Sitinas, LLC, as trial counsel in September 2010. While Mr. Sitinas is frequently retained as trial counsel by other firms, he faced numerous challenges in this particular case, in particular the passage of eight (8) years since the time of the accident. Another significant challenge was the “Emergency Doctrine” defense.
At trial, the defendants would have argued that the tour bus operator was not responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries under the “Emergency Doctrine” as he was simply responding and reacting to an emergency situation, i.e. a broken down vehicle in the middle lane of a three (3) lane highway. The driver was prepared to testify that he was traveling safely and cautiously, when the vehicle directly in front of his suddenly swerved out of the middle lane, revealing a broken down vehicle stopped in the middle of the highway. Faced with this unexpected emergency situation, the tour bus driver claimed he did the only thing he possibly could to avoid the accident, namely to slam on his breaks and cut the wheel of the bus to the right. Unfortunately, when he did so, the plaintiff was walking in the aisle of the bus was thrown towards the front, striking her head against the windshield with such force that it caused the windshield to crack. Our client sustained injuries to her neck, including cervical herniation requiring fusion surgery.
Under New York Law, the Emergency Doctrine defense essentially holds that when an actor is faced with a sudden unexpected circumstance which leaves little or no time for thought, or causes the actor to be reasonably so disturbed that the actor must make a speedy decision without weighing alternative courses of conduct, the actor may not be held negligent if the actions taken were reasonable and prudent under the facts of the emergency at hand.
Mr. Sitinas needed to prove, through expert testimony that this particular accident was avoidable had the tour bus operator simply been alert and seen what was there to be seen. He also needed to hire an orthopedic surgeon in New York to testify as to the client’s injuries and treatment, due to the fact that plaintiff’s New Jersey-based surgeon refused to travel to New York for testimony during the trial.
The parties attended mediation prior to trial, but were unsuccessful at settlement. While both sides were gearing up for trial and preparing their experts for testimony, Mr. Sitinas successfully negotiated a $600,000 settlement directly with the insurance company for the tour bus. This settlement avoided what could have been a risky trial for both sides.