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Delco Jury Awards $5.4M to Brain-Damaged Cyclist

Mike Mitchell, The Legal Intelligencer

A Delaware County jury has awarded more than $5.4 million to a man who suffered brain damage after falling off his bicycle because of an alleged road defect.

According to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Thomas F. Sacchetta of Sacchetta and Baldino, after four days of trial and two hours of deliberations, the jury in Carletti v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania awarded $5.46 million to David Carletti and his wife, Brenda Carletti, over claims that the patch of road where he fell was dangerous. The award included nearly $2.5 million in medical expenses and lost wages, as well as $2 million in pain and suffering to David Carletti and $1 million for Brenda Carletti’s loss of consortium claim.

The state government was the only defendant at trial. Although state law caps recovery for civil damages against state agencies at $250,000, Sacchetta said the total recovery from Pennsylvania will be $500,000 since both of the Carlettis will recover the maximum $250,000 for their claims.

“Delaware County is considered a very conservative county, but I still find, especially since I’m a local Delaware County attorney, that with the right case Delaware County juries will still give significant verdicts,” Sacchetta said.

According to David Carletti’s pretrial motion, the fall occurred in May 2012, when he was riding his bike on West Sproul Road in Springfield Township. The memo said Carletti hit a patch in the road, which he argued constituted a danger defect that ejected him from his bike. He landed on his head, the memo said.

Carletti, who was in his late 50s at the time of the accident, sued both Pennsylvania and the manufacturer of the bike helmet he was wearing, but, according to Sacchetta, that defendant settled confidentially. The claims against the state included negligent design and failure to maintain the road.

According to the pretrial memo, the fall caused a subarachnoid hemorrhage that damaged his brain and led to post-traumatic seizure disorder. He also suffered broken ribs, and a broken vertebra. Emergency personnel were immediately called to the scene, and he was taken to Crozer Regional Trauma Center, where he stayed for three weeks.

Carletti received outpatient therapy, but has since been hospitalized several times with seizure-related injuries, the memo said.

Pennsylvania disputed that any defect in the road caused Carletti’s crash. In its pretrial memo, which was filed by Senior Deputy Attorney General Jane H. Fisher, it said that two independent witnesses traveling in the opposite direction at the time of Carletti’s fall did not know what defect Carletti would have come into contact with.

According to Sacchetta, his accident reconstruction expert, Shawn Gyorke, was integral in overcoming that defense.

“[Carletti] had brain damage. He doesn’t remember anything, but the accident reconstruction expert was very compelling,” Sacchetta said, noting that one of the jurors told him Gyorke was his most compelling witness in the case. “We were obviously thankful the jurors saw the case the way we did.”

The judge who presided over the trial was Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Charles Burr.

The press office for the state attorney general did not return a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

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