Jury Awards SEPTA Driver in Motor Vehicle Collision
Kristie Rearick, of the Law Weekly
October 27, 2015
A Philadelphia court of common Pleas jury has awarded a SEPTA bus driver $750,000 for noneconomic damages and loss of consortium after a motor vehicle collision with a trash removal truck left him with a traumatic brain injury.
On Oct. 8, with Judge Ellen Ceisler presiding, the jury awarded the plaintiff, Isiah Boyd, $700,000 against defendant Accurate Trash removal. An additional $50,000 was awarded to his wife, Alisha Boyd, on the loss of consortium claim.
Isiah Boyd alleged in his pretrial memorandum that he suffered “serious bodily injury” from a motor vehicle collision on July 31, 2012. Boyd, 45, was “driving in the course and scope of his job” in the westbound lane of Lancaster Avenue in Lower Merion when defendant William Corbitt, the driver of an eastbound trash truck—”in the course and scope of his job”—crossed into the westbound lane of travel and struck the bus.
According to the plaintiff’s memo, Corbitt did not recall what happened during the collision. According to defense papers, Corbitt blacked out before hitting the SEPTA bus. Accurate Trash removal said in its court filings that liability was not contested.
Boyd was taken to the Lankenau Hospital emergency department via ambulance, where he complained of suffering a blow to the head, with associated head and neck injuries, according to the plaintiff’s memo. He also complained of back, left leg and left ankle pain, and “transient amnesia of the events following the accident was noted” at the time.
The next day, Boyd was evaluated at Worknet Occupational Medicine and “was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome secondary to the motor vehicle accident.” He was referred to a neurologist for treatment and was diagnosed with a mild head injury. The doctor, his employer’s “company doctor,” recommended that the plaintiff not return to work, “due to his unsteadiness.”
In September 2013, Boyd was evaluated by neurologist Michael Martin Cohen, of the Headache & Neurologic center of Philadelphia, who diagnosed the plaintiff with mild traumatic brain injury.
However, prior to the case, a workers’ compensation decision said “the plaintiff was fully recovered” and that his claim was “limited to the noneconomic component of his traumatic brain damage,” according to Boyd’s pretrial memo.
The defense’s expert, neurologist Paul M. Shipkin, of Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, who testified at the workers’ compensation hearing, opined that the plaintiff “was fully recovered from all injuries as of an Oct. 25, 2012, examination.” The defense also noted, in the pretrial memo, that the plaintiff was “cleared by SEPTA and is working full-time despite his ‘permanent condition,'” which was diagnosed by the plaintiff’s expert.
Boyd’s attorney, Gerald B. Baldino Jr., of Sacchetta and Baldino, said he argued the workers’ compensation judge “only has subject matter over the plaintiff’s ability to work.”
“The position was that this was a traumatic brain injury case,” he said. “He was able to work with his limitations. … There really wasn’t any medical treatment that was going to cure him. So this was a straight pain and suffering case.”
The plaintiff submitted a demand of $1 million and there were no offers before the trial, according to Boyd’s pretrial memorandum.
The verdict was “100 percent for pain and suffering,” Baldino said. According to the court memo, Boyd “had undergone significant personality change as a result of his traumatic brain injury” and “his ability to interact with his wife and physically disabled child was impacted.”
The eight-member jury took two hours to deliberate and the trial lasted three days.
Shari L. Frankfurt of Strachan & Hatzel represented Accurate Trash removal and declined to comment.