Spring 2018

Delaware Attorneys Prevail at Jury Trial

William (“Skip”) Crawford and Krista Shevlin were involved in litigation which ultimately proceeded to jury trial.  Liability was admitted but the nature and extent of the plaintiff ’s injuries were vehemently denied.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.

A negligence claim was filed by the plaintiff, arising out of a three vehicle rear end automobile accident.  There was no dispute that the plaintiff was stopped in traffic with a vehicle stopped directly behind her.  It was further undisputed that the driver of the client’s tractor-trailer was unable to stop before striking the middle vehicle, forcing it into the rear of the plaintiff ’s stopped vehicle.

It was argued extensively both pre-trial and during trial that the force of the middle vehicle striking the plaintiff was miniscule with virtually no damage to the rear of the plaintiff ’s vehicle, and the injuries alleged by the plaintiff could not have been a result of the minor impact.

Specifically, the plaintiff, through expert medical testimony, alleged extensive damages, including two spine surgeries to address a herniated disc at C6-C7 and radiculopathy.  The plaintiff alleged $162,000.00 in special damages as well as ongoing pain and suffering and permanent disability.

These allegations were countered with the testimony of a defense medical expert. The medical expert conceded the plaintiff sustained a cervical sprain/strain in the accident and causally related approximately $14,000.00 of the plaintiff ’s medical bills to injuries resulting from the accident.   The medical expert further testified that the spinal surgeries and extensive treatment were not related to the accident.  F&P’s defense medical expert’s opinions were supported by that of a biomechanical expert who testified that the  minor damage to the plaintiff ’s vehicle and the injuries alleged by the plaintiff could not have been a result of the minor impact.

The plaintiff sued both F&P’s client driver and the driver of the middle vehicle.  The driver of the middle vehicle was dismissed on a motion for summary judgment based on the undisputed testimony of all parties and witnesses that the middle vehicle stopped short of the plaintiff and was forced into the plaintiff after being struck by our client.   The client conceded responsibility for the incident. The sole issues for the jury were causation of the claimed injuries and the nature and extent of the plaintiff ’s damages.

Prior to trial, the plaintiff filed a motion in limine to exclude the testimony of the defense biomechanical expert on the basis that her evidence did not meet the Daubert standard.  According to the plaintiff ’s counsel and the trial court, no Delaware court had ever before allowed the testimony of a biomechanical engineer at trial.   The court held a hearing on the motion and heard testimony from the biomechanical engineer regarding the investigation and methods utilized to formulate her opinions. After the hearing, the court issued an order permitting the defense expert to testify at trial to her opinions as to the force of impact and likelihood of this causing the alleged injuries.

Before the court’s ruling, the plaintiff ’s settlement demand was $400,000.00  and she refused to negotiate below that number. Subsequent to the court’s ruling, the plaintiff lowered her demand to $160,000.00. The defendants countered with an Offer of Judgment of $85,000.00. The offer was rejected.

Following a three day trial, the jury returned its verdict in less than four hours and only awarded the plaintiff $48,000.00 in damages.  Because the verdict was below the Offer of Judgment, Defendants were entitled to the litigation costs incurred subsequent to the Offer of Judgment.

For more information about this article please contact Krista E. Shelvin at 302.594.9780 or