Motorcycle crash – $1,100,000

Location: Spotsylvania County
Verdict: $1,100,000

The plaintiff was injured in a non-contact motorcycle crash that occurred on Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania County, Virginia on October 26, 2014. Nearly all of the pertinent facts surrounding the event were in dispute and liability was denied.

On October 26, 2014, the plaintiff, Leroy Blue, was traveling as the third vehicle in a four-vehicle procession with the intention of taking his Harley Davidson for a ride around Lake Anna. As the group wound through a series of curves and crested a hill on Courthouse Road, they encountered the defendant who was driving her sedan in the opposing travel lane, facing the wrong direction.

The plaintiff claimed that as he got closer to the defendant’s vehicle and realized that she was driving the wrong way down the two-lane road, she suddenly began to merge into his travel lane which caused him to lock up his breaks. The plaintiff claimed the defendant then hesitated before merging completely into his lane, which forced him to lock up his brakes a second time. He then lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into a ditch on the side of the road.

The defendant acknowledged that her driveway sits at the top of the hill proximate to the location where this event occurred. Her sight distance for vehicles approaching the mouth of her driveway from the right is limited because of the hill and the curves, however, the road is flat and straight to the left of the drive and her sight distance in that direction is substantial.

On occasion, she would pull out of her driveway into the oncoming travel lane to build additional sight distance before merging into the proper lane of travel. Her contention was that on the date in question she was stopped in the oncoming travel lane when the first motorcycle (operated by the plaintiff’s son) flew by her at a high rate of speed. A second vehicle (operated by a family friend) then passed her.

Thereafter both the plaintiff’s son and the operator of the second vehicle slammed on their brakes, presumably with the intention of confronting the defendant for being in the wrong lane of travel. The plaintiff then came by her vehicle at a high rate of speed, didn’t notice that the vehicles he was following were coming to a stop, locked up his brakes to avoid causing a rear-end collision, and crashed off the road several hundred feet away from her car.

She denied primary negligence, proximate causation, and asserted the affirmative defense of contributory negligence. The responding crash team documented 91 feet of skid mark attributable to the plaintiff and attributed fault to the plaintiff on the basis of speed.

As a result of the crash, the plaintiff sustained:

  • A fractured collar bone
  • Six broken ribs, and
  • Two thoracic compression fractures.

He was kept in-patient overnight but self-discharged the following day against his doctor’s advice. As a non-surgical candidate, he testified at trial that if he had to be in pain, he would rather be at his house. He returned to work as a master mechanic 5 days later.

Dr. Rosner, the plaintiff’s attending neurosurgeon, testified that the plaintiff’s resultant injuries were permanent and characterized by a lifetime of at-times debilitating pain. He found it shocking yet admirable that the plaintiff was able to return to work within such a short period of time. The associated medical costs were not contested and the defense presented no medical evidence.

The hard-fought case was initially tried in 2018. The first jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $0. After post-trial motions, that verdict was set aside and a new trial on both the issues of liability and damages was ordered. The case was subsequently continued twice as a result of the pandemic before the second trial was held on March 18, 2022. After 50 minutes of deliberation, that jury returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor for $1,100,000. The case subsequently settled for the liability policy limits of $500,000.

Case: Leroy Blue v. Vonita Foster

Venue: Spotsylvania

Judge: Hon. Joseph J. Ellis

Attorney for Plaintiff: Christopher J. Toepp

Special Damages: Past medicals $34,449.42

Plaintiff’s Expert: Dr. Michael Rosner

Pretrial Offer: $25,000 (nuisance value)

Verdict: $1,100,000