On June 26, 2007, at about 5:30 p.m., plaintiff Brian Moore, 19, a college student, hit a tree after he lost control of his sedan heading east on Peach Road in Fairfield County, South Carolina.
Moore alleged that he saw a clump of mud near the road’s shoulder and tried to avoid it, but he couldn’t, causing him to spin out of control and force him off the road. He was able to return to the road but overcorrected the vehicle which then yawed (when the vehicle’s wheels are turned but the vehicle is also sliding sideways) 180 degrees and swerved through the oncoming lane and crashed into a tree with the passenger rear corner panel. Moore was paralyzed in the crash.
The road was being widened–2-foot paved shoulders were being added–and resurfaced by Boggs Paving Inc. under a contract with the state Department of Transportation. Boggs was putting down dirt that day to dress the shoulders, but the work was interrupted by a summer thunderstorm. Moore claimed that the road was contaminated with mud that had washed from the shoulders which resulted in his losing control of his vehicle.
Moore sued Boggs, alleging that it failed to use due care to follow the standard specification and contract requirements regarding striping and it failed to maintain the roadway free of contamination. Moore also sued the Department of Transporation, alleging that the road should not have been open to the public. It settled prior to trial for $75,000.
Moore’s attorney asserted that the road did not have any temporary striping since June 22 as required under the contract and under the South Carolina Standard Specifications for Highway Construction. Striping was added on July 2. Had the striping been present, Moore would have driven closer to the center line and away from the mud, according to the plaintiff’s traffic engineering expert.
Moore’s attorney supported its assertion of mud via Moore’s emergency room medical records (in which he explicitly said that he hit mud) and passersby who claimed that the road was mud-covered.
The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert, using a crush analysis based on the car’s damage and location of the yaw marks, estimated that Moore was traveling at 45 mph on the 55-mph road at the point of the first documented yaw marks.
The defendant denied the allegations, asserting that there was no mud on the road because the road crew was there for 90 minutes in the rain ensuring that it was free of mud. If there was mud it was the result of the plaintiff’s vehicle splattering it on the road, argued the defense.
Although Boggs conceded that the standard specifications required pavement markings, the state inspectors, who were required to be onsite daily, did not directly instruct the defendant to temporarily stripe the road after it had completed resurfacing; therefore, it followed orders.
There was a question as to the presence of the state inspector onsite that day, because the June 26 work report cited “no staff was present.” The defense traffic engineer opined that the Department of Transportation should have made certain the defendant striped the roadway if it felt the striping was necessary.
Based on the investigating trooper’s measurements of the yaw marks, the defense accident reconstruction expert calculated Moore’s speed at 63 mph prior to the accident, prompting the defense to argue that he was comparatively negligent.
Moore was taken by ambulance to Palmetto Health Richland where he was treated for paralysis from the chest down and a severe brachial plexus injury to his right arm. He was eventually transferred to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he underwent six weeks of hospitalization and rehabilitation.
Upon release in a powered wheelchair, the plaintiff returned to his mother’s home where he received daily therapy and care from family members and nursing assistants.
He sought $785,000 in past medical costs and a life care plan of $7.5 million to $8 million, which included daily care, chair and bed replacements, medication, van transportation, and handicap accessibility to his house. Ruled completely disabled,
Moore sought a little over $1 million for future lost earnings, which was based on a job in computer science and/or coaching–two vocations he expressed interest in pursuing prior to the crash.
Moore settled with the defendant for $8 million during a mediated settlement.
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