|Norfolk lawyers win $6 million jury verdict|
THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT ARCHIVES
Published: November 1988
© 1988 Landmark Communications, Inc.
Most plaintiff's attorneys dream of multi-million dollar settlement offers; two Norfolk attorneys had the nerve to reject one.
Jeffrey A. Breit and John W. Drescher turned down a $3 million offer to settle a personal injury suit on behalf of a 78-year-old woman who lost an arm and a leg after being struck by a truck in Virginia Beach. They apparently made the right choice, however, as the jury eventually awarded their client $6 million--the biggest verdict ever in Norfolk and one of the highest awards in the state.
"I was ready to check myself into the psychiatric ward," Breit said of the decision to reject the settlement. "Even judges were telling us that $3 million is a lot of money to turn down."
Plaintiff, attorneys were confident
But Breit and Drescher were confident the jury would award their client more in damages, and the plaintiff and her family wanted to wait for the jury verdict, Breit said.
The offer came after the second day of a six-day trial in Norfolk Circuit Court. Four days later, after the jury had been deliberating for about 90 minutes, an insurance adjuster asked Breit and Drescher if their client would consider a $3.5 million offer, Drescher said. They presented the offer to the plaintiff's grandson, who was acting as the family spokesman. He rejected the informal offer and within 15 seconds the jury began filing into the courtroom with their verdict.
The case stemmed from an accident July 3, 1987, in which the plaintiff, Helen Doss of South Boston, was struck from behind by an 11-ton refrigeration truck as she walked across the parking lot of D&M Marina in Virginia Beach. The truck had been parked at the top of an incline, when its brakes failed. The driver turned sharply to the right to avoid colliding with a building or running into the marina, but he lost control and struck the plaintiff, Drescher said.
Doss lost her right leg above the knee and her left arm above the elbow. She also lost all functional use of her left leg and is confined to a wheelchair.
The verdict was rendered against three defendants: L.M. Sandler & Sons, Inc., which owned the truck; Currituck Crab Co., Inc., which leased the truck from Sandler; and James Robert Langley, Jr., Currituck's driver. The three defendants had combined insurance coverage of $11.5 million.
Key to the plaintiff's case was testimony by two Virginia Beach police officers that the driver told them after the accident that he had had brake failure at least two other times that day and had informed Currituck of the problem.
Punitive damages denied
The $6 million verdict, returned Nov. 30, includes $410,719 in existing medical-related expenses. The plaintiff's projected medical expenses are $86,000 a year.
State's second largest verdict
The verdict is believed to be the second largest in Virginia history. In 1986 Charlottesville lawyer J. Randolph Parker won an $8.3 million medical malpractice verdict. That case is presently on appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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It's about rebuilding the face of a young girl shattered by a drunk driver. It's about college money for 2 young boys, their father killed by a speeding tractor trailer.