The family of a 52-year-old man won a jury verdict of almost $2.3 million in a wrongful death lawsuit again a hotel corporation and its employee, the driver of the van that struck and killed him.
The victim was riding a bicycle at about 6:45 pm on September 15, 2008 when he was hit by the van, driven by Robert Edward Coleman.
Coleman was the defendant in the civil suit, along with his employer, La Quinta Inn and Suites, owned by LQ Management. He and the corporation were liable.
The victim was not wearing a helmet and was thrown to the pavement by the impact, suffering a serious head injury. He died three days later at Yale-New Haven Hospital after emergency surgery.
The plaintiff was his wife, Gregoria. They have three adult sons.
The six jurors announced their verdict just after noon in New Haven Superior Court.
The jurors ruled both Coleman and the victim were at fault in the accident. But the jurors felt that Coleman (and La Quinta, as well) were responsible for 58 percent of the negligence and the victim was responsible for 42 percent.
It is believed that the victim shared some of the negligence probably because “no one can say for sure” if he obeyed a stop sign. However, according to his attorney, the victim did not have a stop sign.
Two witnesses for the victim stated Coleman was traveling at about 40 miles per hour. The accident occurred in a 25 mile per hour zone. The lawsuit complaint alleged Coleman should have yielded the right of way to the victim and that Coleman failed to sound his horn to warn the victim.
The lawsuit also alleged that Coleman was using a cellphone at the time of the accident, in violation of state law. Coleman denied this.
The jurors awarded $1,709,840 in damages to the victim’s estate and $580,000 in damages to the widow. The complaint noted she had incurred medical and funeral expenses, loss of wages and permanent loss of his earning capacity. She suffered loss of her husband’s moral support and companionship.
The victim’s family left their native Honduras in 1994 because of warfare and crime. He was a medical doctor there and the victim’s wife was in the medical pharmacy trade.
It was stated that the victim’s family came to the United States legally and the victim’s wife became an American citizen. Initially they both worked in factories while studying at two colleges. She obtained a bachelor’s degree and became a teacher’s aide. The school where she was working closed and she has been unemployed for three months.
The victim was preparing to take a medical licensing exam and was active in his church. He was described as “a pillar of the community.”
The victim’s wife gave Coleman a Christmas card while the jury was deliberating and told him that she wants to give him $25,000 of the damages to his children.
These were hard-working people. It is unfortunate that the victim was out for an innocent bike ride when this terrible accident occurred. If he were wearing a helmet, perhaps his head injuries would not have been as serious. But no one knows for sure if Coleman was speeding or whether he stopped for a stop sign or not. Why do you think the victim’s wife would offer part of the damages to the man who hit her husband?
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