This sealed the truck driver's fate in disclaiming liability as far as we were concerned.
St. Louis, Missouri (PRWEB) January 13, 2009
Missouri personal injury lawyer Ryan Bradley recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit against a trucking company and its driver for the death of Cathie Dolter at a truck stop in Pontoon Beach, Illinois. On January 21, 2008, Cathie Dolter, 61, crossed the parking lot when an eighteen wheeler struck her from behind, knocking her to the ground. An independent witness detailed during his deposition how the truck driver ran over Ms. Dolter's torso and legs with the left tires and once again with the trailer's dual tandems. Mrs. Dolter survived for approximately two hours but succumbed to severe internal injuries at St. Louis University Hospital.
Photographs taken by Plaintiff's investigators the next day revealed excessive amounts of dirt and debris on the truck windows as well as numerous prescription medications issued to the driver on truck's cab floor, both of which were overlooked by the Pontoon Beach police department and not mentioned in the police report. The eyewitness testified the driver's window and windshield were excessively dirty.
Michael Dolter, Cathie's husband, alleged in his wrongful death complaint the truck driver, the truck company and the truck stop were all negligent in causing Cathie's death. The complaint alleged the driver was in violation of many federal motor carrier regulations, including operating the truck when it was likely to cause an accident, a violation of 49 CFR 396.7. In addition, Plaintiff alleged numerous violations of Illinois law, including 625 ILCS 5/12-503, which specifically prohibits operation of vehicles with "other material" on windshields. Plaintiff also alleged the truck driver was fatigued and under the influence of prescription drugs. Dolter also alleged the truck stop failed to adequately control traffic flow on its premises and failed to provide adequate lighting where Mrs. Dolter was struck. This case was pending in the United State District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, cause number 2008 CV 00262.
Initially, the truck driver denied he struck Dolter, but admitted to investigating officers he never saw her. Attorneys for the truck driver and company initially postured another truck may have struck Mrs. Dolter, prompting St. Louis injury lawyer Ryan Bradley to send a forensic team to examine the truck for trace evidence. However, by this time, the truck had been driven to Wisconsin in inclement weather. After the forensic inspection, Missouri accident attorney Bradley presented evidence the truck company destroyed key evidence. Photographs of the truck tires taken during the forensic examination revealed an arrow at the valve stem. Photographs of the same tire taken the day after the incident at the truck stop did not show any arrow. Dolter believed at least one of the truck's tires was changed prior to the examination.
Missouri personal injury lawyer E. Ryan Bradley, the attorney for Mr. Dolter, commented, "Even with all the evidence we gathered through our investigation, this would have been a challenging case without the eyewitness testimony. Truckers typically don't break rank and voluntarily come forward with information that may inculpate other drivers. We had an investigator on the scene within hours obtaining statements and looking for potential witnesses. He (the investigator) found the eyewitness at the truck stop over the CB and was able to get a great statement."
Oddly, the Pontoon Beach, Illinois police report only listed one witness. However, Bradley knew other witnesses were out there. "We knew there were other witnesses the police didn't have listed in the report. So, we subpoenaed the 911 tapes. This was the jackpot. The tapes revealed the identities of two more witnesses, both of whom weren't listed on the police report." The Missouri accident attorney added, "This sealed the truck driver's fate in disclaiming liability as far as we were concerned."
Dolter demanded a global settlement of $2 million to all Defendants, which was the limit of all liability insurance available to the truck driver and truck company. Bradley stated, "I think we had a great punitive damages case, but Illinois law is 100% clear - punitive damage awards are not provided for in the wrongful death statute." Bradley said, "It’s sad, but in Illinois it is cheaper for someone who is grossly negligent to kill their victim. If Cathie would have lived, I believe a jury would have punished these defendants for their actions with punitive damages." The Missouri accident attorney expressed frustration with the status of Illinois law. "How does this make any sense? I think the Illinois legislature needs to revisit this issue."
Cathie's medical bills totaled $30,000.00 and her lost wage claim was calculated to be approximately $200,000.00. The truck company proposed a "Hi-Low" settlement agreement of $1,000,000.00 - $2,000,000.00, which Dolter rejected. Weeks later, the truck company tendered its policy limits of $1,999,400.00, which accounted for Defendant's payment of a $600 related claim. The case settled before Magistrate Judge Wilkerson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois ruled on Plaintiff's motion regarding destruction of evidence.
"From the beginning, we were searching for the truth; we found it beneath denial, deception and refusal to accept responsibility," Bradley indicated. "Mr. Dolter's overriding concerns were to hold the truck driver and truck company responsible for their actions as well as preserve Cathie's memory." The Missouri accident attorney stated Mr. Dolter donated a substantial amount of his recovery to rebuild a church in the Dolter's hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The complete details of this settlement are confidential, according to Bradley. "Part of the deal in reaching this settlement was that we are not allowed to divulge the defendants’ names or the names of their attorneys, experts or insurers."
Ryan Bradley, a partner at The Bradley Law Firm, LLC, in St. Louis, is a Missouri personal injury lawyer who handles truck, car and motorcycle accidents involving serious personal injury or death. He is one of 11 attorneys in Missouri and 5 attorneys in Illinois to achieve membership in the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an organization that recognizes trial attorneys who achieve multi-million dollar verdicts or settlements for their clients. Fewer than one percent of all lawyers in the United States are offered membership. Mr. Bradley is a licensed personal injury lawyer in Missouri and Illinois, but accepts cases involving crashes from other jurisdictions as well. Mr. Bradley can be reached at 314-721-9111 or http://www.stllawhelp.com for additional information.