Reed Armstrong Partner Stephen Mudge Obtains Defense Verdict in Traffic Light Dispute Case

Reed Armstrong Partner Stephen Mudge obtained a verdict in defendant’s favor following a trial before the Honorable Tom Chapman in Madison County, Illinois, on October 3, 2018. The case arose out of a car collision where both drivers claimed they had a green light.

The plaintiff, Patsy Troxell, claimed medical bills in excess of $190,000. She sustained a fractured sternum, fractured ribs, aggravation of a pre-existing neck and back condition, and multiple internal injuries. She spent one week in the hospital and two weeks in rehabilitation following the accident.

The plaintiff was driving an automobile in which one of her key witnesses, her son, was a passenger. Both plaintiff and her son testified without any uncertainty that plaintiff had a green light. In addition, the plaintiff asserted that the defendant was on her cell phone at the time of the accident. The Court admitted phone records into evidence and each side argued they supported their position.

The defendant, Jennifer Pitts, was equally adamant she had a green light. An eyewitness confirmed the defendant’s account of the accident. However, the plaintiff disputed the witness was close enough to the intersection to see the light governing the plaintiff’s lane of travel.

Mudge retained David Brammeier, a transportation engineer, as an expert witness. After pinning down the various witnesses to the accident, Mudge submitted the deposition testimony and light sequence chart for the intersection to Mr. Brammeier. Mr. Brammeier determined the intersection was a fully actuated intersection; in such an intersection, the pattern and frequency of travel in various directions affects the light sequence and who ultimately receives a green light at a given point.

Mr. Brammeier opined the light sequence favored the defendant. His analysis used the plaintiff’s own son as a witness against her because the light sequence the plaintiff’s son described as they approached the intersection verified Mr. Brammeier’s opinion that the light sequence would not have triggered a green left turn arrow for the plaintiff. In addition, there was an issue of whether the plaintiff stopped beyond the white stop line. This was a significant factor because the intersection was a non-locking actuated intersection, which means that if a car stops beyond the white line, the intersection apparatus forgets the driver was even present, therefore affecting the light sequence.

While the primary dispute in the case centered around fault for the accident, to hedge against an adverse decision on fault, the defendant called one of the treating radiologists to testify that an MRI taken shortly after the accident showed a pre-existing hernia as opposed to an acute hernia caused by the accident. The defense also called the plaintiff’s primary care physician that treated her before and after the accident to establish the plaintiff enjoyed a good recovery and had a significant disability before the accident.

In his closing argument, Mudge did not recommend any monetary figure and instead argued the jury should find in defendant’s favor and award nothing to the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to find in the plaintiff’s favor and award her in excess of $345,000.

The jury returned its verdict in the defendant’s favor after deliberating only about 40 minutes.

Mudge, an attorney with Reed, Armstrong, Mudge & Morrissey, P.C. for the last 38 years, has tried numerous types of personal injury and property damage cases over his career. He is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is also a preeminent attorney per Martindale-Hubbell, a Leading Lawyer as well as a Super Lawyer per his peers in the profession.

If anyone has questions regarding the use of David Brammeier as an expert witness, feel free to contact Attorney Mudge at smudge@reedarmstrong.com.