Plaintiff: Defendant must have been speeding at time of crash
|Broadside, Motor Vehicle - Speeding, Motor Vehicle - Intersection, Motor Vehicle - Underinsured Motorist, Insurance - Coverage|
|Chevarlo Rennals v. Jacinth H. Timol Francis, Hugh O. Francis, State Farm Insurance Company and State Farm Indemnity Company, No. BER-L-609-10|
|Bergen County Superior Court, NJ|
|Joseph S. Conte
- Aslan T. Soobzokov; Law Office of Aslan T. Soobzokov; Paterson, NJ, for Chevarlo Rennals
- Emad G. Iskaros; Law Offices of Walter F. Skrod; Hackensack, NJ, for Jacinth Timol Francis, Hugh Francis
- Teresa K. Kassim; Gregory P. Helfrich & Associates; Summit, NJ, for State Farm Indemnity Company
- Carl Mazzie; Foster & Mazzie, LLC; Totowa, NJ, for State Farm Insurance Company
- GEICO for Timol Francis and Francis
On Feb. 2, 2008, plaintiff Chevarlo Rennals, 31, a delivery driver, was attempting to make a left turn from Central Avenue, onto Grove Street, in Lodi, when the side of his vehicle was struck by the automobile being driven by Jacinth Timol Francis. The accident allegedly caused Rennals to suffer a lumbar-disc injury that eventually required laser surgery.
Rennals sued Francis and the owner of the vehicle she was driving, Hugh Francis. Also joined as defendants were insurers for Rennals: State Farm Insurance Company, over personal-injury-protection issues, and State Farm Indemnity Company, over underinsured-motorist-coverage issues.
Before entering the intersection of Central and Grove, Rennals claimed, he made sure to look in both directions for oncoming traffic. Although he observed a vehicle in the distance approaching from his right that appeared to be at a sufficiently safe distance for Rennals to enter the intersection, the Francis vehicle nevertheless struck Rennals' vehicle on the right passenger side when Rennals pulled out into the intersection, Rennals claimed.
Rennals argued that Francis had to have been traveling at an excessive rate of speed if she was able to close the abundant gap between the two vehicles, and that, in any event, Francis had had sufficient time to observe him up ahead in the roadway and to exercise caution so as to avoid the accident. The issue of interim payment of Rennals' medical bills was resolved early on in the litigation, and State Farm Insurance was voluntarily dismissed from the case, with the remaining claims as to that carrier being sent to arbitration pursuant to the terms of the relevant policy. State Farm Indemnity remained involved as to the UIM claim, and tracked the litigation pending resolution of the liability dispute between Rennnals and Francis.
Francis denied that she had been negligent with respect to the collision, contending that Rennals had failed to exercise sufficient caution before turning left into an intersection with respect to which Francis had the right of way.
The parties agreed that there would be a trial as to the liability issues between Rennals and Francis, and that the remaining damages-related issues would abide the resolution of the liability aspects of the asserted claim.
Rennals did not seek immediate medical attention following the accident, but did consult an orthopedic specialist shortly thereafter, on account of persistent and increasing lower-back pain.
Initially he was treated conservatively for lumbar-disc herniation at L5-S1, as confirmed by MRI. Laser surgery later was performed in order to disintegrate portions of the involved disc that were deemed to be rubbing on nerves. Rennals continued to complain of residual pain, and in the opinion of his treating physician, the pain symptoms will not subside and are permanent in nature.
Although no damages-related arguments were presented at trial, the defense had maintained during the litigation that Rennals' lumbar-disc herniation was due to a degenerative condition, and was not causally related to the accident.
The jury found that Francis had been 70 percent negligent with respect to the accident, and that Rennals had been 30 percent negligent.
After the jury's verdict was rendered, the insurer for the Francis vehicle agreed to pay its $50,000 policy limit. State Farm Indemnity then agreed to pay $40,000 of the available UIM coverage, resulting in a total recovery for Rennals of $90,000.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. All of the defense counsels declined to contribute.