Injured Postal Carrier Collects $138,000 Verdict
"When you're faced with a sudden emergency, you still have to act reasonably under the circumstances," said Cameron.
Stefanacci was represented by Thomas Mulligan Jr., of McNamara & Kenney in Bridgeport, who also noted that Gomez had prior back issues. His mail truck had previously been rear-ended In January 2010. Though most of the damage was to his knee, he also received physical therapy for back pain. Gomez was in another car accident in 2006 and complained of back pain afterwards.
Cameron said Gomez's prior back injuries had healed prior to the October 2010 crash. The defense did not present any phsycians as expert witnesses to testify otherwise.
Allstate had little interest in making a substantial settlement offer, according to Cameron, given the minimal impact collision, the plaintiff's prior back pain and the defendant's sudden loss of brakes. Cameron said the insurer offered just $2,700. As such, the two sides proceeded to trial in the Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport before Judge Richard Gilardi.
"The defense tried to argue that [Gomez] wasn't really injured and was motivated by litigation basically," said Cameron.
She said the defense team argued that it made no sense for Gomez to be out of work for so long after what it characterized as a minimal-impact crash. However, Cameron responded that Gomez had found a temporary job that turned permanent; he now works as a machinist at a factory. She said he changed to the overnight shift last month so he could attend the trial, resulting in a very tired plaintiff.
"When he was testifying, he was yawning," said Cameron, who told the jury why her client was so tired. She thinks that helped persuade jurors about her client's work ethic, as did the fact that Gomez had another part-time job when he was a mail carrier.
"Basically, my argument was that he didn't fit the profile of the malingerer that the defense was trying to make him out to be and I think the jury believed him," said Cameron.
The jury awarded $64,646 in economic damages for lost wages and medical bills and more than $73,000 in non-economic damages for a total verdict of $138,000.
Mulligan, the defense lawyer, said the verdict ultimately came down to the jury's perception of Gomez. "I think the jury just thought that Mr. Gomez was a very credible witness," said Mulligan. "The verdict was much higher than I wanted to see come in but I think they felt he was very credible. That was the key."