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Case Example: Spinal Cord Injury Brings $12 Million Settlement

Posted on May 1, 2016

On April 12, 2001, Terry Whittlesey’s life changed forever. En route to a vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., he was in a vehicle that was rear ended by a truck. While others traveling with him also were injured, Whittlesey was left nearly completely paralyzed. The truck, part of the fleet from Swift Transportation, had no insurance coverage at the time.

Duffy + Partners represented Mr. Whittlesey, who had been an active 40-year-old working in carpentry and contracting prior to the accident. It was a case that could have gone to trial, but ended up with a $12 million settlement. Here’s what happened.

Whittlesey’s girlfriend, Myra Alls, was driving the rental car. Friends who were joining them on vacation were in a van just in front of them. Everyone was stuck in stop-and-go traffic on Route 95 in Pennsylvania.

According to a news article on the accident, the lawsuit “alleged that a Swift truck driven by Edward Cox was behind Alls' car for some time in the stalled traffic. While still in the construction zone, the suit said, the truck struck Alls' car, pushing it into the van driven by her friends. Whittlesey was the most seriously injured and is now a “tetraplegic," meaning that he is nearly completely paralyzed from the neck down. While a quadriplegic has no movement ability in all four limbs, a tetraplegic has "minimal movement and some sensation in all four limbs.”

Had the case gone to trial, the jury would have seen a video on a “day in the life,” where Whittlesey’s caregivers were shown brushing his teeth and feeding him. Jurors also would have seen his diapers and colostomy bag, as well as the painful muscle spasms he experiences. It was not surprising that Swift Transportation preferred to settle.

At issue, however, was the fact that Swift Transportation was uninsured. According to the article, “Swift claims that it had $31 million in insurance coverage in early 2001, but that its brokers negligently allowed the coverage to lapse.”

Swift paid $11 million to Whittlesey, of which $6.25 million would have been covered by insurance. Myra Alls’ insurance company paid her $1 million.

Attorneys for both sides agreed to keep the settlement confidential. It might never have been made public, except for an interesting twist. Swift Transportation sued its insurance brokers—Transtar Insurance Brokers, Inc. and Diversified Insurance Brokers of Utah, Inc. for that $6.25 million. That suit publicly disclosed details of the former case. You can read the full article here: http://www.duffyfirm.com/news/ariz-case-reveals-12-mil-settlement-in-phila-lawsuit/

Do you know of a similar story where someone needs legal advice regarding a potential lawsuit? Contact us, and let’s discuss the details in a free consultation.