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Vehicle Accidents

Petrosky v. Philadelphia Police Department

Our client, Sam Pertosky, sued the Philadelphia Police Department as a result of an accident with a police officer. A Philadelphia Police Department marked police car was traveling at a high rate of speed without emergency lights or sirens activated as Mr. Petrosky entered an intersection outside of his place of employment. Mr. Petrosky told us that the traffic light was green when he entered the intersection and that he did not see emergency lights or hear sirens before his vehicle was broad-sided by the police car.

After we were retained by Mr. Petrosky the insurance adjuster for the Police Department suggested that the police officer had emergency lights and siren operating, and that the police officer had a green light. We immediately contacted Mr. Petrosky’s employer and requested that video surveillance footage from outside of their facility be preserved. Since Mr. Petrosky worked for the United States Postal Service, it took some legal wrangling to eventually get a CD of the surveillance footage. However, once the surveillance footage was reviewed, it clearly showed Mr. Petrosky proceeding into the intersection with a green light.

In addition to utilizing the video surveillance footage to refute that Police Department’s attempt to unfairly blame Mr. Petrosky for the accident, our investigator was able to locate a witness who supported Mr. Petrosky’s contention that no emergency lights or sirens were in use at the time of the accident. We were later able to uncover evidence in our lawsuit that the officer in question had been cited for failure to use emergency lights and a siren.

This case points to the importance of requesting evidence preservation immediately and utilizing investigators to interview witnesses immediately. What we did for Mr. Petrosky is no different that what we do for all of our clients on every single case. We leave no stone unturned in our quest to find the truth and to seek justice for our clients.

Fortunately, Mr. Petrosky was not seriously injured in the accident and was able to return to work in a few days after this accident, but a review of the surveillance video shows that things could have turned out much worse. We were able to settle Mr. Petrosky’s case for $200,000*. A copy of the video surveillance footage from his accident is posted on our web site for your review.

Tony Mistecka vs. Burman’s Home Health Care, Inc., Court of Common Pleas Philadelphia County, Case No.: 02-1816

Type of Case: Pedestrian Struck by Vehicle.

Tony Mistecka was a self-employed contractor involved in a renovation project in Chester, PA, on October 11, 2001. On that date, Mr. Mistecka went out to his pick-up truck to retrieve some tools from the tool box located on his pick-up truck. While reaching into his tool box, Mr. Mistecka was struck by a delivery van owned by Burman’s Home-Health Care, Inc. The force of the impact caused Mr. Mistecka to be thrown into the middle of the street. He suffered a fracture to his lower right leg. The insurance company for Burman’s Home-Health Care, Inc., later attempted to blame Mr. Mistecka for the accident by asserting that he was in the middle of the street at the time of the impact. However, the van driver’s original statement that he did not see Mr. Mistecka suggested that Mr. Mistecka could not have been in the middle of the street. Mr. Mistecka recovered from his injuries and was able to return to work. The insurance company for Burman’s settled the case. Result: $400,000 settlement*.

Counsel: Christopher J. Heavens, Boothwyn, PA Robert McCann, Esquire, McCann, Schaible and Wall, Philadelphia, PA.

Sebastian v. Tri-Amerika Contractors (no lawsuit filed)

Type of Case: Wrongful Death

Eight year old Sean Sebastian was struck and killed by vehicle when crossing the road on Halloween night. The impact occurred in the middle of the road in a curve and the child was wearing a black costume. The family hired Chris Heavens to represent them. Mr. Heavens hired an accident reconstruction expert and a visibility expert to assist him in determining whether the driver could have avoided the accident. There was no evidence that the driver attempted to brake or take any evasive action. Heavens was able to utilize his expert opinions and argue that a minimum amount of braking and/or evasive action would have likely lead to a lesser impact and/or no impact at all with the child. Result: $525,000.00 Settlement*.

Counsel: Christopher J. Heavens, Charleston, WV

Mona Whitt, as Administratrix of the Estate of Holly Renee Elliott, v. Jackie Lee Thomas; Renick and Shirley Jones; William Cody Jones; Jeremy Treadway, and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia, Civil Action No.: OO-C-3171

Type of Case: Wrongful Death

Sixteen-year-old Holly Elliott was killed while riding on the back of an ATV which was being operated by a male under the age of 21. Elliott and the male were both under the influence of alcohol. Elliott’s family hired Chris Heavens to represent them when Nationwide and State Farm refused to make any settlement offer. Heavens filed suit against the operator of the ATV and the owner of the ATV. Heavens also filed suit against the adults who hosted the “keg party” where Elliott and other juveniles consumed alcohol prior to the accident. The case presented two issues of first impression. First, since the State does not have social host liability, can a person be sued for serving a minor alcoholic beverages to the point of intoxication? Second, does a homeowner insurer have to provide coverage on a social host theory of liability, if there is no such tort in the law? The homeowner insurers of the various defendants were Nationwide and State Farm. Nationwide paid its $100,000.00 policy limit to the Elliott family on behalf of the operator of the ATV. State Farm denied coverage to the owner of the ATV who negligently entrusted the ATV, and State Farm reserved its rights in providing a defense to one of its insureds who was involved in purchasing the keg for the party. Heavens asserted that serving minors alcohol trumped the social host liability issue and put the case into the realm of corrupting the morals of minors. Thus, Heavens contended to State Farm that there would be social host liability if minors were being served. The defendants contended that there was no social host liability under the facts of the case, irrespective of minors being involved. Result: Confidential Settlement.

Counsel: Christopher J. Heavens, Charleston, WV

Harvey – Tractor Trailer Illegally Parked on Side of Road

Rhett Harvey’s family retained us after Rhett was killed in a tractor-trailer accident in November 17, 2011. Rhett’s death occurred at approximately 7:30 a.m. on eastbound US Route 460 near Kellysville, Mercer County, West Virginia. Rhett’s friend, Gregory W. Price, was driving a 2001 Toyota Celica in which Rhett was the front-seat passenger. They were on their way to work at Southeast Valve. Earlier that morning, Harvey Leist, had been operating a tandem tractor-trailer on behalf of Con-Way Freight. He had stopped his tractor-trailer and was parked along the right shoulder of U.S. 460. The vehicle in which Rhett was a passenger collided with and under-rode the driver’s side of the rear trailers, causing fatal injuries to Rhett.

Harvey Leist parked the Con-Way Freight Tractor-Trailer along the road edge of eastbound US Route 460 so that he could sleep. We alleged Leist was careless and negligent in his operation of the tractor-trailer, in that he parked the tractor-trailer only a few feet off the fog line. We showed he could have easily moved the vehicle further from the traveling lanes by placing the passenger side wheels on the adjacent gravel. The following picture depicts the additional area that Leist had to move the tractor-trailer away from the fog line.

We alleged Leist was careless and negligent in his selection of the location to park the Con-Way Freight tractor-trailer. It was parked immediately following a sharp left-hand curve on eastbound US Route 460. Because of where the tractor-trailer was parked, Gregory Price would not be able to readily recognize that the tractor-trailer was parked in a nature that presented a hazard to himself and Rhett until it was too late. This collision would have been prevented had Leist made the right decision to get off US Route 460 either a few miles before or after the spot where he decided to park. Beyond his failings in selecting the location to park the tractor-trailer, we alleged Leist also was careless and negligent in failing to activate the hazard warning flashers. This failure violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The West Virginia Public Services Commission found such a violation in its investigation of this collision.

Con-Way Freight itself recognized that this collision was preventable by Leist, and as a result, Con-Way Freight terminated Leist for violating its Safety Policy. Although Con-Way Freight later reversed its ruling and reinstated Leist (presumably because of Plaintiff’s pursuit of this lawsuit) it still determined that Leist committed an “Unsafe Driving” violation for failing to use the hazard warning flashers, and required him to complete remedial training.

Beyond failing to use the hazard warning lights, we alleged Leist was also careless, negligent and violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in failing to place required warning devices (reflective triangles, flares or orange cones) behind the tractor-trailer. The federal regulations require warning devices to be placed behind a tractor-trailer if the vehicle is going to be parked for 10 minutes of more. Con-Way attempted to argue that Leist was not parked for more than 10 minutes at the time of the impact, thus they should not be held responsible for his failure to place warning devices behind the truck. This argument by Con-Way missed the point that, if its driver had parked to sleep more than 10 minutes, it was a requirement to place warning devices behind the tractor-trailer before going to sleep.

After we filed suit, we learned that Leist had a sleep disorder. We alleged that the sleep disorder was not properly addressed by Con-Way. While Leist clearly failed to use flashers and warning devices in violation of trucking regulations, we felt there was an underlying issue of Con-Way’s failure to address and accommodate an employee’s medical condition.

Con-Way’s lawyers blamed Mr. Price for the accident, despite Mr. Leist’s illegal parking of the tractor-trailer and failure to sue warning flashers and triangles. Con-Way’s insurance lawyers obtained medical records on Mr. Price, which showed he had no illegal drugs or alcohol in his system. They obtained the autopsy report on our client, Rhett Harvey, which showed he had no illegal drugs or alcohol in his system. After we presented Con-Way’s insurance lawyers with our accident reconstruction package, they requested mediation.

Rhett Harvey was a fine young man who had a troubled family life as a child, through no fault of his own. He was hard working and dedicated. Like many of our cases where we represent working class people, we found ourselves having to defend a client from personal attacks of corporate defendants. When defendants know they are wrong, they usually attempt to shift the focus to the alleged bad characteristics of our clients. This tactic is designed to mitigate the amount of compensation that a jury might include in a verdict. The corporate/insurance company lawyers believe that the more that they can get a jury to dislike a victim, the less money they will have to pay. We pride ourselves on vigorously fighting back to protect our clients from these tactics. We did so for Rhett Harvey and his family.

Result: Substantial Confidential Settlement.

LAURA DELP, as the Administratrix of the Estate of Rhett Harvey, v. CON-WAY FREIGHT, INC., a Delaware Corporation; HARVEY LEIST, individually and as an agent of CONWAY FREIGHT, INC. In the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia. Civil Action No. 12-C-777