On October 20, 2022, a federal jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania awarded plaintiff, Kerry Ponder (“Plaintiff”) $1,800.000 for personal soft tissue, sprain / strain injuries arising from a motor vehicle collision where Plaintiff was driving on behalf of his employer. Though the at-fault driver had insurance coverage of up to $50,000, this did not cover the extend of damages claimed which included a $231,667 worker’s compensation lien and past / present work loss reflecting his annual salary of $50,000 prior to the accident.
As such, Plaintiff initiated the instant lawsuit against Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company (“Charter Oak”) entitled <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Ponder-v.-Charter-Oak-Fire-Insurance-Company.pdf">Ponder v. Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company</a>, </em>No. 20-5037; 50:20-cv-05037 (2020), seeking UIM benefits from his employer’s $1,000,000 insurance policy to make up the difference. At trial, liability, overall, was not at issue, rather damages were disputed. After a two-day jury trial and subsequent two-hour deliberation, the million-dollar verdict was issued in favor of Plaintiff. Judge Jeffery Schmehl then molded the verdict to $958,000.000, reflecting the $50,000 third-party settlement, before the final judgment was issued. We suspect the issue of damages is likely to be disputed on appeal by Charter Oak.
<em>Ponder</em> acts as a reminder to risk management and defense professionals alike that soft tissue injuries which may initially seem nominal can, in fact, lead to a six-figure payout where damages are supported. Moreover, it remains difficult to ever fully predict the results of a jury trial.
Thanks to Kendal Hutchings for her contribution to this article. Should you have any questions, contact <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">Matthew Care</a>.