Jury Returns Defense Verdict In CVS Parking Lot Accident

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Philip Dunn
Philip Dunn

Barbara Lucas v. Louis Tine et al.: A woman who claims a pickup truck backed into her vehicle in a drug store parking lot and caused her back and neck injuries was unable to convince a jury that the truck driver was at fault.

On March 31, 2009, at around noon, Louis Tine, 56, of Newington, was driving a Town of Newington-owned pickup that was carrying mulch, according to his lawyer, Philip Dunn Jr., of Jackson O'Keefe in Hartford.

Tine was about to dump the mulch near a town-owned sign on Main Street in Newington. But Tine wasn't feeling well that day and decided to stop in a nearby CVS for cough drops, according to Dunn.

There is considerable dispute as to what happened next. Dunn said his client drove into the pharmacy parking lot, noticed three empty spots near the drive-thru and figured that since the lane was empty, he would make use of it as he backed his truck into one of the spots.

"It's a lot easier to back in than back out with a truck like that," said Dunn.

As Tine drove into the drive-thru lane, he put the vehicle in reverse and began backing into the spot. After feeling an impact, he looked in the rear-view mirror and saw that his truck had collided with a station wagon driven by Barbara Lucas, who was 73 at the time.

The left side of Lucas' vehicle was damaged. Dunn noted that some mulch fell to the ground outside a white parking space line. There was also glass in the vicinity.

Lucas claimed she followed Tine into the lot and was only about four feet behind his bumper. She thought he was either going to go through the drive-thru the wrong way or back into a parking space. However, Lucas said that as Tine began backing up, she saw that his pickup was moving toward her. She claims she hit the gas and turned to the left but could not avoid the collision.

Lucas argued the accident happened in the lane of travel in the parking lot and not near the parking spot.

But Dunn argued that the placement of the mulch and glass at the accident scene offered evidence that Tine's version of events was more accurate. A responding police officer, who later testified at the trial, also backed Tine's version of the accident.

Lucas did not seek immediate medical treatment. But about a week after the accident, she complained of neck and back pain to her primary care physician. She received some physical therapy treatments, Dunn noted. Though she complained of lingering back and neck pain, she was not assessed a permanent partial disability rating by her doctors, Dunn said.

Dunn said the woman also developed more significant health problems unrelated to the parking lot accident.

"So it was hard to parse out what related to this and [what was] from her other issues," said Dunn.

Lucas hired Donald McCarthy Jr., of McCarthy, Coombes & Costello in Hartford, and filed a negligence lawsuit against Tine and the Town of Newington. McCarthy did not return messages last week seeking comment for this article.

Dunn said his side had little interest in settling, as there were no real substantive talks.

The case proceeded to trial last month in New Britain Superior Court before Judge James Abrams. Jury selection lasted one day and evidence presentation took another day as both Tine and Lucas testified. The only other witness was the responding police officer.

"We mostly contested the liability," Dunn said. "It was not a big case from an injury standpoint."

The jury deliberated for about two hours before siding with the defendants.

Dunn and his clients were pleased with the verdict. He said it was the plaintiff's impatience that led to the crash.

"I think she thought she could drive around the back of [the town truck driver] and get past him before he could get into the spot," Dunn said.•

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