$4.1 Million - $4.1 Million Settles Suit Over Pick-Up's Crash with UPS Semi.

The Legal Intelligencer $4.1 Million Settles Suit Over Pick-Up's Crash with UPS Semi The Legal Intelligencer

Accord Reached After All-Day Bargaining Session Before Moss by Michael A. Riccardi, Legal Staff

Attorneys for United Parcel Service and a person who was injured when the pick-up truck she was riding in collided with a UPS 18-wheeler agreed to a $4.1 million settlement for the plaintiff, who sustained serious brain injury in the February 1994 crash.

Lawyers in the case spent an all-day session in negotiation before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Sandra Mazer Moss, who was scheduled to begin presiding over trial in the case beginning April 26.

Since the pick-up truck driver's auto insurance carrier had tendered policy limits of $300,000 and the city of Philadelphia agreed to pay $50,000 in damages, the key party in the case was UPS, said Stewart J. Eisenberg of Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, the lawyer for Christina Tomcho, a New Jersey woman who was injured in the accident.

UPS eventually agreed to put $3.75 million on the case, Eisenberg said, after Moss had floated a figure and then the parties bargained to conclusion.

The Moss mediation session, which took place Monday, was the second major effort to settle the case. The parties also met for a mediation before attorney Thomas Rutter in March. Eisenberg said the plaintiffs did not move off of their position at that time.

In Tomcho v. United Parcel Service, the plaintiff, then 27 years old, was a passenger in a pick-up truck driven by a defendant named John Romano on March 27, 1994. A UPS tractor-trailer was cruising down an off0ramp from the Walt Whitman Bridge near the place where Front Street and Delaware Avenue meet. Romano apparently failed to see a red stoplight as well as the 18-wheeler and slammed into the truck broadside, Eisenberg said.

An on-board computer in the UPS truck showed that the trucker was proceeding at 40 miles per hour in a 24 mile-per-hour zone, Eisenberg said. The driver of the UPS truck apparently applied the brakes in an attempt to avoid the collision, but there was no skid marks laid down by Romano's pick-up truck.

"The main problem in the case was the possibility that the jury could find the pick-up truck driver 100 percent at fault," Eisenberg said. "Then, there would have been no way to compensate Ms. Tomcho for the full extent of her injuries."

Romano's insurance policy limit of $300,000 would have been the maximum recovery if he were deemed totally liable by jurors in the case.

"We're trying to show that the UPS driver was negligent as well" for speeding down the offramp and onto Front street, Eisenberg said.

Tomcho's injuries were severe, with facial and jaw fractures, head trauma, brain contusions and oxygen shortages to her brain. The result of the injuries are that Tomcho is today ambulatory in a wheelchair, has hearing difficulties and double vision, loss of hand-eye coordination and impaired use of her hands as well as short-term memory loss and urinary dysfunction. Eisenberg said she has had to give up plans to study for work in health care of physical therapy.

One probable defense would have been to point to a 1994 accident in which Tomcho suffered a closed head injury, Eisenberg said. But, he said, by the time of the second accident she was able to walk independently and was making a good recovery, with only some visual dysfunction to the left eye.

David F. White of Kelly McLaughlin & Foster was counsel for UPS in the case.

The city kicked in $50,000 for negligence in poor maintenance of the Front Street/Delaware Avenue area, with blocked views of traffic coming off the Walt Whitman Bridge offramp.