Mother, Son Collect $300,000 After Being Struck By Car
Andy Lin, et al. v. Robert Teleski: A mother and her 12-year-old son who were struck by a car while crossing a busy street have settled their lawsuits against the driver for more than $300,000.
On March 5, 2012 at 6:41 p.m., Meifang Zheng, a Chinese immigrant, and her son, Andy Linn, had just finished shopping at TJ Maxx and Walmart in Fairfield Plaza on Route 7 in New Milford when they decided to cross the busy stretch of road.
According to their lawyer, Pamela Levin Cameron, of Moore, O'Brien, Yelenak & Foti in Cheshire, there are five lanes of traffic on Route 7. Cameron said that Zheng, 43, and her son made it across two lanes and into the third lane, which is a left turn lane. At this point, mother and son were 360 feet away from the intersection. They had stopped in the midlle of the busy road because traffic filled both of the remaining lanes they needed to cross.
While they were standing still in that left turn lane, waiting for the traffic to pass by, Robert Teleski, operating a 2002 Subaru station wagon, drove right into them. The boy, who was closest to the station wagon, took the brunt of the impact. His body went up onto the Subaru's hood and smashed into the windshield, according to Cameron. The windshield cracked from the impact.
The mother was injured as well. "They were lying on the ground swollen and bloody," said Cameron.
Both Zheng and Lin were taken by ambulance to Danbury Hospital. Lin was diagnosed with facial fractures, a right knee fracture, and a subdural hematoma, or bleeding near the brain.
Lin was then transferred to a nearby Connecticut Children's Medical Center. Doctors were able to stop the bleeding and treat the other injuries without any invasive procedures. The boy was released from the hospital four days later.
Zheng, meanwhile, was diagnosed with tibia and fibula fractures in her left leg. Surgery and hardware were required to keep the bones in place. Zheng also had head and neck injuries. She spent four days in Danbury Hospital before getting released.
Zheng ultimately filed a negligence lawsuit against Teleski. There were also claims of bystander emotional distress, as the mother saw her young son get hit by the vehicle, and the boy saw his mother plowed into.
The Subaru's driver was represented by David Migliore, of Luccisano, Turret & Rosenbaum in Wallingford, who was hired by Peerless Insurance to handle the case.
Migliore could not be reached for comment for this article. But his defense was that the mother and boy contributed to the accident by failing to cross the busy road at the intersection, where there was a button for pedstrians to press to change the light, stop traffic, and allow them to cross. However, Cameron explained that there was not an actual crosswalk at the intersection.
"[Teleski's] testimony was that he did not see them," said Cameron. "[Zheng and Lin] were wearing dark clothes, it was evening… he saw a flash but didn't see them in enough time to avoid impacting them."
Cameron said even though it was dark outside, the Subaru driver should have been able to see the pedestrians.
"Our argument was basically [Zheng and Lin] were stationary when the accident happened," said Cameron. "It wasn't like they were running across the street when it happened." He said the headlights from other cars and the fact that the mother was carrying light-colored bags should have enabled the Subaru driver to see the mother and son.
The plaintiffs hired an expert who was prepared to testify that the headlighs and lighter colored bags created both positive and negative contrasts that should have allowed the driver to see the pedestrians. (Positive contrast is when a bright object lies on a dark background. A negative contrast is where a dark object is silhouetted against a bright background.)
The defense, meanwhile, hired an expert to testify that the defendant was not speeding and didn't do anything else wrong. The defendant driver claimed it would have been much easier for the plaintiffs to see him and get out of his way than for the driver to see the pedestrians and stop in time.
Cameron noted that one aspect that made the defense case more difficult was that Connecticut has a parental immunity doctrine, which in this case prevented the mother from taking the blame for her son crossing the road and getting injured.
"If there was no parental immunity, the defendants could've blamed her legally," said Cameron. "The defendants could have said if she was negligent in crossing the street where she did, and she brought him with her, she's responsible for his injuries."
Without that argument, it was much harder for the defense lawyers to prove contributory negligence on the part of the young boy.
"The child is held to the standard of a 12-year-old," said Cameron. "You could try to argue he's negligent. But it's a lot harder to argue."
Cameron said she did not receive any offers to settle the case until just recently, as an early November trial date loomed. Ultimately the two sides agreed to settle, with the boy receiving $205,000 and the mother $110,000.
The family now lives in North Carolina, Cameron noted. "[The defense] had had a hard position on liability for a long time," said Cameron. "With experts and a trial date coming and parental immunity issues, I think they changed their position."