Rear-Ended Plaintiff Loses Bid For Damages

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Whitfield filed a negligence lawsuit through her attorney, Vanessa Wambolt of New Haven, who did not return calls for comment.

Candela said the plaintiff initially sought damages for future medical bills in the neighborhood of $60,000 to $125,000. The defense, however, was not interested in settling.

As the trial date drew nearer, Candela said the plaintiff offered to settle for $27,500. On the day of the trial, that number dropped to $15,000. And at the start of jury selection the amount dwindled to $7,000. At that point, Candela was ready to try the case.

"We contested liability, obviously, but we also contested some of her testimony concerning how badly she was hurt and the lack of treatment she received over the past two years leading up to the time of trial," Candela said. "We didn't say she wasn't hurt. But our position [with the jury was], 'She wasn't as hurt as she's telling you.'"

Candela said the two sides agreed to a box, or group, voir dire, where prospective jurors sit together to answer questions from the lawyers. Most trials in Connecticut use individual voir dire. The expedited system limited jury selection to just half a day.

Testimony before New Haven Superior Court Judge Matthew Frechette took another half day. Whitfield, one of her younger brothers, and Rosen testified. The jury deliberated for just 10 minutes before siding with Rosen. When the jurors returned so quickly, Candela at first "thought they were actually coming back with a question."

Though neither Candela nor the judge spoke to jurors after the trial, the assumption was that the quick decision meant the panel must have decided that Rosen was not at fault. Thus, the jurors didn't even have to consider the severity of Whitfield's injuries.•

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