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$5,390,000 Settlement for Truck Crash Victim

The plaintiff, John Smith, who was then 23, was proceeding in the center lane of I-95 in Fairfield. Immediately ahead of him was a tractor-trailer owned by Bavarian Motor Transport, Inc. Directly behind Mr. Smith’s vehicle was a tractor-trailer owned by Road-Con Systems, Inc.

As these three vehicles approached the #24 entrance ramp, there was a collision in the right lane between a Chevrolet Suburban and a box truck leased by Toria Truck Rental to Poulin Enterprises. The force of the impact pushed the Poulin Enterprises box truck partially into the center lane, causing the operator of the Bavarian truck to swerve in order to avoid striking it. Mr. Smith also brought his vehicle to a stop. The operator of the Road-Con truck, however, was unable to stop in time and struck the Smith vehicle in the rear, pushing it into and under the Bavarian truck.

Mr. Smith was extricated from the wreckage by Fairfield Fire Department personnel. Firefighters used wooden cribbing and two air bags to lift the truck’s bed off Smith’s car. They then had to cut Smith out of the crushed hulk. At the time, Fairfield Fire Chief Richard Felner said Smith’s car was so heavily damaged it wasn’t possible to recognize its make or model. “It was a horrendous crashthe vehicle was completely crushed,” said Attorney Robert Sheldon, who credits Fairfield Fire Department personnel with saving his client’s life.

Mr. Smith was rushed to St. Vincent’s Medical Center where he underwent five weeks of intensive care for his injuries, which included a fractured skull, comminuted fractures of the cervical spine, permanent damage to the spinal cord resulting in high-level quadriplegia, and numerous complications, such as infections, ulcers and pressure sores. He was subsequently transferred to Gaylord Hospital where he underwent extensive rehabilitation for 4-1/2 months. He then returned to his parents’ home in Shelton, which was extensively renovated to meet his physical needs.

The plaintiff’s injuries have severely compromised virtually every aspect of his life. He must rely on a power wheelchair for mobility and on caregivers for most activities of daily living. Despite his physical limitations, Mr. Smith refuses to let his injuries prevent him from accomplishing his goals in life. Remarkably, he moved into his own condominium where, with the assistance of aides who come in several times a day, he lives on his own. Much of the plaintiff’s time is devoted to writing about his experience and to helping disabled people and educating the public about them. He has assisted in teaching a class in the Physical Therapy Department at Sacred Heart University. He has also helped in efforts to oppose federal legislation that would adversely affect the disabled in obtaining insurance coverage for wheelchair replacement and repairs.

Mr. Smith’s economic damages were substantial. His medical and other related expenses totaled approximately $865,000. The cost of his continuing care was enormous. His lifetime impaired earnings, discounted to present value, was ranged between $1.3 million and $1.5 million.

Shortly before suit was started, Road-Con Systems, Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection in New Jersey. The claims against the company and its driver were settled with AIG, their insurance carrier, for the available policy limits. The cases against the remaining defendants went before a judge of the superior court. After lengthy deliberations, Attorney Robert Sheldon was also able to settle those claims. The total amount of settlement was $5,390,000.

“The progress that John has made in his lengthy road to recovery from his devastating injuries has been nothing short of amazing,” said his lawyer, Robert R. Sheldon, of Tremont Sheldon P.C.. “It is a testament to his courage and indomitable spirit, and to the loving care and tireless support of his parents.”