The Western District Missouri Court of Appeals last week affirmed a $ 950,000 jury verdict in a motorcycle accident case, concluding that the condition of the road during construction was the primary cause of the man’s injuries.
The jury award surprises me. Plaintiff was driving his motorcycle through an “inactive” construction zone. While passing a truck at 70 miles per hour, he lost control of his motorcycle as the result of uneven payment, a nearly two-inch difference in the grades. (Arguably that 70 mph did not help, either.)
Plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged the motorcycle accident would not have occurred if there had been proper warning of the uneven surfaces. The jury largely agreed, finding the defendants 95% at fault for the accident and the motorcyclist only 5% at fault (which would lead to a defense verdict under Maryland law). http://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=51217
On appeal, the defendants argued that it did not know that the uneven pavement was a dangerous condition and likely to cause injury to a third party. The contractor also tried the whole “the state told me to do it like I did it” defense which didn’t fly – there is a non-delegable duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of the public using the highway.
The appellate court’s decision was a no-brainer. The jury’s call to find the motorcyclist only 5% at fault for his own injuries is a surprise to me. Our law firm would never take this case because even this jury’s verdict would have resulted in a defense verdict under Maryland’s antiquated contributory negligence law.
You can find the court’s opinion in Harlan v. APAC-Missouri Inc. here.