Injured Postal Carrier Collects $138,000 Verdict
Gustavo Gomez v. Alberto Stefanacci: A postal carrier who injured his back when his mail truck was rear-ended was awarded $138,000 by a jury in Bridgeport recently.
Gustavo Gomez, 35, of Bridgeport, was driving his U.S. Postal Service truck along New Haven Avenue in Milford mid-day on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, after finishing his route.
He stopped in traffic to wait for a driver in front of him to turn left into a hair salon. As he waited, Gomez was rear-ended by a Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle driven by Alberto Stefanacci of Milford. Stefanacci was on his way home from his daughter's soccer game.
There was minimal property damage in the crash but Gomez later complained of low back pain.
Pamela Cameron, of Moore, O'Brien, Yelenak & Foti in Cheshire, represented Gomez in the subsequent lawsuit. She claimed her client complained of low back pain that caused tingling and numbness in his legs. She said Gomez could not return to work as a postal carrier due to the pain. Before officially leaving the job for good, Gomez collected more than $60,000 in workers' compensation benefits.
Though an MRI exam did not reveal any structural damage in Gomez's low back, his doctor assessed him with a 5 percent permanent partial disability rating. Cameron said Gomez underwent physical therapy that specifically included exercises to strengthen his back so he might return to work, but he was never able to do so.
"He couldn't walk all that way with mail," Cameron said. "But he was really doing what he could to try to get back to work."
After Cameron filed the negligence lawsuit, Stefanacci, through a lawyer hired by his insurance carrier, Allstate, argued that a minimal-impact crash could not have injured Gomez to the point of keeping him out of work. Further, the defendant contested liability by arguing that his brakes failed and the ensuing sudden emergency situation prevented him from being responsible for the crash.
As evidence, Stefanacci pointed out all of the SUV's brake fluid had leaked out and was visible at the accident scene. Stefanacci also testified he had his brake lines fixed following the crash.
Cameron acknowledged that Stefanacci's brakes failed, but she still maintained that he could have avoided the crash. She said Stefanacci had been following seven or eight car lengths behind Gomez and that he could have applied his emergency brakes or swerved. The attorney said Stefanacci ultimately applied his emergency brakes after the crash occurred.