DeAndre Robinson, 9, was riding his bicycle on a street in his neighborhood when he came to an intersection where a truck was stopped at a stop sign. Leo Leone, an auto mechanic, was taking the truck for a test drive, and he sat at the intersection testing the truck’s gears for 15 to 30 seconds. When Robinson rode up to the side of the truck, he believed he saw Leone waving him on. As Robinson began turning left and passed in front of the truck, it also began turning. The truck struck Robinson and dragged him beneath the vehicle.
Robinson suffered multiple fractures to his right leg and ankle and underwent about 15 surgeries, including open reduction and internal fixation of his ankle and skin-graft procedures. He now walks on his heel because he is unable to move his ankle. His right leg is shorter than his left, and he will require surgery to shorten his left leg. He also has scarring from the injuries and skin-graft procedures. His past medical expenses totaled about $300,000, and his future medical expenses are estimated at $400,000.
Robinson’s mother, on his behalf, sued Leone and Truck Tech, Inc., the auto repair service that employed him. The plaintiff alleged that Leone was negligent in (1) failing to keep a proper lookout and pay proper attention to his driving, (2) signaling the child that it was safe to proceed, and (3) taking the truck for a test drive in a residential area. Suit against Truck Tech alleged respondeat superior liability for Leone’s negligence.
The plaintiff sought damages for lost future earning capacity based on restrictions Robinson will have from the leg injury.
At trial, the plaintiff presented three-dimensional animation recreating the accident to provide the jury with different views of the scene. The demonstration gave the jury a full-scale view of the neighborhood and showed what Leone could have seen in his truck’s side-view mirror—including the whole side of the truck and the rear behind it—had he looked.
The defense denied that Leone signaled to Robinson and argued that he must have driven up the right side of the truck in the driver’s blind spot.
The jury found that Leone was negligent and that Truck Tech was vicariously liable. It awarded $2 million.
The parties subsequently settled for close to the verdict amount. Medicaid has asserted a lien for about $42,400.
Citation: Robinson v. Truck Tech Inc., No. MID-L-8663-09 (N.J., Middlesex Co. Super. Oct. 2012).
Plaintiff counsel: Cynthia A. Walters and Justin Van Dyke, both of Short Hills, N.J.
Plaintiff experts: Steven Schorr, accident reconstruction, Abington, Pa.; Benjamin Gastel, vocational rehabilitation, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.; Sanders Davis, physical medicine, Morristown, N.J.; and Kristin Kucsma, economics, Livingston, N.J.